Poll confirms: Washington, D.C. is the worst "state" in the union

To cleanse the palate on a slow news day, something dumb and fun to trigger your sense of state pride or shame, as the case may be.

You’re going to look at this list and think, “Wait, in what way is one state being rated ‘better’ than another here?” Ah, that’s the beauty of it. The poll doesn’t specify. All YouGov did was give people a choice of two states at random and ask them which is better. They supplied their own criteria. After doing that thousands of times with all sorts of combinations, a ranked list of the “best” and “worst” based on winning percentage emerged.

And it’s a pretty savvy list! Who among us would disagree that Washington is the worst place in America?

Actually, I would disagree. Washington should be next to last, ahead of New Jersey.

The top 10 is an interesting mix of big states, tourist destinations, and … just nice places to live. Hawaii’s there because it’s Hawaii, Nevada is there because of Vegas, New York is there because of NYC. Florida has all manner of tourist attractions and sunny weather, and it’s a big state, as is Texas. That matters, as YouGov notes that respondents to the poll chose their home state 77 percent of the time. Which makes it interesting that California, by far the most populous of our 50, couldn’t crack the top 10. Either the share of Californians who prefer their home state to others is lower than the national average or views of California among outsiders are especially dismal, or both. Probably both: An exorbitant cost of living, relentlessly liberal government, natural disasters, etc, make it a poor option for red-staters.

The big winners here, I think, are Colorado, Virginia, and North Carolina because they’re doing it without any major tourist attractions. Colorado has the mountains, fresh air, and an interesting left-libertarian culture. Virginia and North Carolina have … I don’t know exactly. Nice country scenery, underrated cities, a sweet mix of urban and rural attractions, I guess? This is an interesting theory:

Now that I look again at the top 10, there are a lot of purple states in there, aren’t there? Colorado and Virginia aren’t purple anymore, they’re blue, but they were reddish recently enough that many righties still think fondly of their state cultures. North Carolina, Florida, Arizona, Georgia, and even to some degree Texas are conspicuously tight in elections nowadays, giving both sides reason to hold them in some degree of esteem. Maybe that explains California’s absence from the top 10: Although one-party rule isn’t an absolute bar to entry (see, e.g., New York), one-party rule combined with Cali’s many other problems pushed it to number 12 despite its sunny weather and many charms.

One other thing I can’t help noticing is that there are a lot of red states in the bottom 20. That may be because there are precious few major tourist attractions among them collectively. When you’re asked to choose between Nebraska, say, and some other state, how are you supposed to make that choice? What defines it for you? In many cases, people were probably just choosing whichever state they had some basic information about, leaving rural jurisdictions like NE at a disadvantage.

Which also means Illinois must really suck, though. They have a mega-city in Chicago and are still poised just outside the bottom 10. Imagine running your state so terribly that you’re losing head-to-head match-ups to Delaware despite having Chitown to offer. Yeesh.