Illinois is America’s Most American State

According to the AP’s analysis of Census Bureau data, Illinois is America’s most American state, most closely reflecting the nation as a whole on “21 demographic factors, including race, age, income, education, industrial mix, immigration and the share of people living in urban and rural areas.”

Illinois is the fifth largest state, with a big city in Chicago, rolling countryside in the south and a lot of sprawling suburbs. And it has Peoria, which, it turns out, really is a barometer of America’s preferences. Many companies continue to use the city in central Illinois as a test market, taking literally the adage about how things play there.

…Illinois was followed by Oregon, Michigan, Washington and Delaware.

West Virginia was the least typical state, poorer, whiter, and more rural, followed by Mississippi, New Hampshire, Vermont and Kentucky.

Iowa was 41st. If anyone’s counting, that means some of the least representatively American states have been responsible for shaping the American presidential elections. Which is, you know, something a lot of brown/LGBT/urban-dwelling/very liberal type people have been saying for years.

But don’t mind us.

America is becoming more diverse, with minorities topping 100 million for the first time in 2006, according to Census Bureau figures being released Thursday. About one in three Americans was a minority last year, a slight increase.

In 2006, the nation was 67.6 percent white, non-Hispanic; 15 percent Hispanic; 13.4 percent black; 5 percent Asian; 1.5 percent American Indian or native Alaskan and 0.3 percent Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander. The percentages add up to more than 100 in part because some people identify with more than one race and Hispanics can be of any race.

Illinois’ racial composition matches the nation’s better than any other state. Education levels are similar, as is the mix of industry and the percentage of immigrants. Incomes in Illinois are a little higher and the state is more urban the rest of the nation. But the age of the population is very close to the country’s mix of minors, seniors and those 18 to 64.

Republican candidates for statewide office in Illinois are undoubtedly more liberal than Republican candidates for national office. In the last gubernatorial election, the candidates from both parties were big on multiculturalism and diversity, and the Republican candidate was pro-choice and pro-gay rights; she’d participated in Chicago’s gay pride parade for years. They can’t win any other way. Of course, Illinois governors aren’t elected via an antiquated, unfair, and generally fucked up electoral college system, either. Just saying.

Top 5 Most American States: Illinois, Oregon, Michigan, Washington, and Delaware.

Top 5 Least American States: West Virginia, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Kentucky, and Vermont.

Huh. Whaddaya know. All five of the most American states are blue. What a coincidence.

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30 Comments

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30 responses to “Illinois is America’s Most American State

  1. Kelley

    Yes, why am I not surprised about Kentucky’s position on that list. However, I am lucky to live in Lexington, which is a refuge from the redness, be it from one’s politics, or one’s neck.

  2. oddjob

    You might not say Delaware was blue if you lived there. Wilmington is blue, and necessarily therefore so also is New Castle County, but the southern two counties, Kent & Sussex, are a different world altogether. That part of Delaware was slave holding back in the day, and you can still tell that if you are sensitive to such things.

    It’s also one hell of a seriously pro-big business state for a blue state.

  3. oddjob

    I also note that most of the least American states are seriously hilly or mountainous.

  4. You might not say Delaware was blue if you lived there.

    True enough. But the presidential mappage says blue.

  5. Sam Hensel

    As an Illinoisan (is that a word?), I’m glad to hear it. I don’t want to live anywhere else.

  6. nightshift66

    oddjob,
    I’m guessing you are being facetious. OR & WA have the Rockies, and MS has no elevation higher than 500 feet above sea level.

    What caught my eye was that WV and MS are the top two, but for opposite reasons racially. MS is 60% white (2nd lowest in nation) and 37% African-American (1st in nation), while WV is the reverse. Both are near the bottom in most economic and education stats, though.

    Oh, and the whole blue/red state dichotomy is bunk. The divide is rural/urban, as shown by county by county maps.

  7. oddjob

    I know they have the Cascades. I wasn’t saying the most American states were all flat as a pancake, I was saying the least American states are mostly states (WV, VT, NH) dominated by quite hilly terrain. Area-wise, most of WA and OR are arid plain in the Cascades’ rain shadow, no? Most of the three states I specifically cited (& a healthy chunk of KY, too) are hills or mountains.

    On the other hand, Massachusetts, means something like “land of hills”. It also is hilly, but it’s not on the list, nor is Maine, nor is Pennsylvania.

  8. Arkades

    Oh, and the whole blue/red state dichotomy is bunk. The divide is rural/urban, as shown by county by county maps.

    Indeed. Blue states are typically blue because the population of urban areas is sufficient to dominate that of the rest of the region; a lot of rural counties in ‘blue’ states remain very red.

    There are also small blue enclaves in otherwise ‘red’ states. I happen to live in such a place.

  9. oddjob

    Indeed. Blue states are typically blue because the population of urban areas is sufficient to dominate that of the rest of the region; a lot of rural counties in ‘blue’ states remain very red.

    That’s why it’s politically accurate to describe Pennsylvania as “Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, with Alabama in between”.

  10. And the wonderful thing is that Illinois is DOMINATED (we are the Dominators!) by Chicago politically, which is dominated by the Democratic Machine (now, admittedly, that operates more like the Mob than how the rest of the country’s Dem party operates, but still), which is dominated by Mayor Daley.

    And yes, he is a corrupt bastard, but he’s OUR corrupt bastard, and for all the shit he’s done, he’s done a lot of good for this city.

    Plus, he’s LURVES himself some queers 🙂

  11. oddjob

    And the wonderful thing is that Illinois is DOMINATED (we are the Dominators!) by Chicago politically, which is dominated by the Democratic Machine (now, admittedly, that operates more like the Mob than how the rest of the country’s Dem party operates, but still)

    Massachusetts isn’t quite as blatantly corrupt (at least since I’ve lived here – back 50+ years ago I’m not sure it was all that different), but it’s dominated by Boston in the same way Illinois is dominated by Chicago. The difference is the mayor is not as powerful. Perhaps that’s because the capitol is here, too, so the state government is too busy throwing its own weight around to let the city usurp it.

  12. oddjob

    Pennsylvania’s more like Michigan, with a big city, but a big rural, conservative population elsewhere that counterbalances it in the legislature.

  13. Oh, and the whole blue/red state dichotomy is bunk. The divide is rural/urban, as shown by county by county maps.

    That’s only partly true. The racial make-up of urban areas matters, too. Predominantly white urban environments are not as likely to be “blue” as diverse urban environments. It’s only recently that demographic distinction became notable, however, because America’s urban history has always been about diversity (even bearing in mind ethnically/racially segregated populations).

  14. nightshift66

    Liss,
    As I note in my post, Salt Lake City and the like are certainly an exception, as are the Miss. Delta and Texas-Mexico border. But the fact, as noted above, is that whether or not a state is ‘blue’ depends almost uniquely on whether its population is more urban or rural.

  15. oddjob

    Nor is that dichotomy new. Aristophanes wrote comedies that included derisive put-downs of country bumpkins.

  16. christine

    “That’s only partly true. The racial make-up of urban areas matters, too. Predominantly white urban environments are not as likely to be “blue” as diverse urban environments.”

    You really haven’t looked at the ‘urban’ areas of Iowa then. Take a look at Linn County Iowa. It’s a very blue county, has the 2nd/3rd largest population center in the state, and is probably 90-95% white. And I agree with oddjob that the dichotomy is more rural vs urban areas. There are a couple of really red counties in Iowa that have majority population of Amish and Mennonite farmers over any other group. They are the traditional conservatives.

    One of the other odd thing about Iowa is that the ‘modern’ Republican Party is ‘believed’ to have started in Crawfordsville, Iowa. It’s in SE Iowa on US218. It is told that it came out of the Granger Movement in the 1880’s. This is what many of the red counties in Iowa hold to, *not* the current neo-conservative movement.

  17. SAP

    Wolfrum,

    Keep dreaming, buddy. The White Sox will win another World Series before the Cubs do.

  18. You really haven’t looked at the ‘urban’ areas of Iowa then.

    Of course there are exceptions. I didn’t argue that it’s a hard and fast rule; I said (accurately) that “Predominantly white urban environments are not as likely to be ‘blue’ as diverse urban environments.”

  19. SAP –

    Keep dreaming, buddy. The White Sox will win another World Series before the Cubs do.

    So taking your White Sox loving arse down … we’ll see what crow you eat after the game this afternoon (which, btw, I was offered free tickets to, but because I had to cover my office for the bloody whole day thanks to a senior-level retreat, I had to turn them down … *lots of swearing*)

  20. Kathy A

    Salon had a review of the new book about Rahm Emanuel recently, and the writer (a Chicagoan) made some good points about Illinois/Chicago politics:

    “[In November 2002,] I remember sitting on my couch in Chicago and thinking, “If the Democrats want to turn it around, they need to take some lessons from the machine around here. Chicago Democrats have no scruples. They treat political offices as feudal inheritances. They shake down contributors like a corrupt pope selling indulgences. They’re sleazy, they’re arrogant … and they WIN.” …

    “In Illinois, politics is not about ideology. Politics is about winning elections so you can give jobs to your family and contracts to your friends. Practical to the core, Illinoisans hate extremists who want to gum up the government with arguments over immigration or the Ten Commandments. The religious right is regularly trounced in Republican primaries, and the activist left is confined to a few neighborhoods of shabby three-flats on the Chicago lakefront. The state’s last Republican governor, George Ryan, won by running to the left of his Democratic opponent on gay rights and abortion. In an environment like that, you learn to look for the center.”

  21. A Stranger

    Ahhh, Pennsyltucky. Strange place for a San Diegan to wind up in, even for just the college years. No sushi for miles…

  22. patrick

    All polarized dichotomies are crude: rural Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota were more influenced by agrarian movements in the 20s/30s that had hints of progressivism, where rural Mississippi, Alabama etc. were enforcing a rigid racial caste system.

    So Iowa, true to its duality, sends Tom Harkin and Charles Grassley, while Illinois gives us Bobby Rush, Denny Hastert and Henry Hyde.

    BTW, did you know that the U of Iowa teaches a course on “Midwest Sexuality”? Hmmmm.

  23. Makes me proud to have been born in Chicago!

  24. oddjob

    Ahhh, Pennsyltucky. Strange place for a San Diegan to wind up in, even for just the college years. No sushi for miles…

    Was that Penn State (main campus), or somewhere else?

  25. oddjob

    All polarized dichotomies are crude: rural Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota were more influenced by agrarian movements in the 20s/30s that had hints of progressivism

    Thomas Frank in “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” early on reminds us that back then Kansas was so strongly progressive it was viewed by the establishment as dangerously left wing. It also sent more than its share of seriously liberal legislators to Washington. Nancy Kassebaum and Bob Dole (who from a strictly non-partisan political viewpoint were most accurately characterized as moderate Republicans) were the last gasp of that legacy.

  26. OR & WA have the Rockies

    Either Or & WA have moved a good deal East since I lived there or the Rockies have moved West. Global warming perhaps?

  27. MAJeff

    BTW, did you know that the U of Iowa teaches a course on “Midwest Sexuality”? Hmmmm.

    And I went to Iowa State. Damn!

  28. Linnaeus

    I have now lived in three of the five “most American” states. Woo hoo!

  29. Linnaeus

    Pennsylvania’s more like Michigan, with a big city, but a big rural, conservative population elsewhere that counterbalances it in the legislature.

    Washington is similar: the four most urban/suburban counties (King, Snohomish, Pierce, and Kitsap) on the whole trend Democratic but are balanced out by the more conservative areas to the south and to the east, especially across the Cascades.

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