States are “ranked” in many ways — best business climate, worst quality of life, most fun, etc. But most of those judgments are made by professionals — economists, pollsters, even journalists.
A unique YouGov survey took an entirely different approach.
We asked people to choose the better of two states in a series of head-to-head matchups. States are rated based on their “win percentage”, that is: how often that state won the head-to-head matchup when it was one of the two states shown.
All 50 states were shown, in addition to Washington, D.C., but territories were not included.
The rankings are from best to worst. Hawaii won the most head-to-head match-ups at 69 percent. Coming in dead last — by a significant margin — was the soon-to-be great state of New Columbia, formerly known as “Washington, D.C.,” which won only 35 percent of the match-ups.
Hawaii, which is well-known for its beautiful beaches and warm weather, took the top spot by winning 69% of its matchups. With its scenic mountains, hiking paths, and recreational marijuana industry, Colorado took second place with 65% of matches won.
The third-ranking state was Virginia (64%), a destination for American history and ocean coastlines. Nevada, the home of Las Vegas, landed in the fourth-favorite spot (61%), with North Carolina only marginally behind it (61%).
Following the top five, Florida snagged the sixth spot with a 61% win-rate. Another retirement destination, Arizona, won 60% of its matchups to take seventh. New York — the destination for Broadway, quality food, and the city’s culture — landed in eighth place (59%). Two other destinations for warm weather and ocean coastlines landed in ninth and tenth place, respectively: Georgia (58%) and Texas (58%).
They don’t call it the “Sun Belt” for nothing.
Conversely, no poll would be complete without an anti-Southern bias.
The two lowest-rated states were Alabama (38%) and Mississippi (38%), which often rank low in other assessments of income and health care access. Both are Southern states, and in fact almost all the bottom ten states are situated in either the South, with Arkansas (39%) and Kentucky (42%) joining Alabama and Mississippi close to the bottom, or Midwest, including Iowa (39%), Indiana (40%), South Dakota (40%), Missouri (42%), and Kansas (42%).
There’s also an anti-Midwestern bias — or, at least, an anti-rural bias. Iowa and Indiana are beautiful states. There is something awe-inspiring when driving through Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and Missouri and seeing endless row upon row of corn, wheat, and soybeans. I suppose it’s boring — until you realize the extraordinary wealth on display, the dedication and hard work it takes to grow the food and raise the livestock we eat.
On the other hand, I went to school in Des Moines, where they almost literally roll up the sidewalks at midnight. Plus, you know — all those white people. No colors or hues to break the monotonous, monochromatic color scheme. There are plenty of Americans who see that as a failing.
I think for most Americans, the best place to live is home, wherever that is.