Corn and soybeans. Hogs and cows. Prairies and hills. More deer than people. Fly-over states. Just what is it that makes where we live truly "Midwestern?" And for that matter who's the most "Midwest" of all.

Tractor in a field on a rural Maryland farm at sunset with sun rays
Credit: flownaksala

Well, a recent study conducted by Emerson College Polling and the Middle West Review sheds some new light on the complex and ever-changing nature of Midwestern identity and geographical boundaries. This extensive survey, which collected over 11,000 responses from 22 states, challenges (and confirms) conventional notions of what it means to be a Midwesterner.

Credit: Jupiterimages
Credit: Jupiterimages

Traditionally, the Midwest has been associated with a specific set of states, but this study suggests that the concept of the Midwest extends farther west than previously believed. The survey revealed that more than 40% of Coloradans, particularly those on the eastern slope closer to the Midwest, consider themselves Midwestern, and over half of Wyoming residents share in the sentiment.

Credit: Natali Garyachaya

Notably, Oklahomans, a state often associated with the Great Plains, also identify with the Midwest, with 66% of respondents considering themselves Midwesterners. This actually challenges the idea of a strict division between the Great Plains and the Midwest.

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Iowa and Minnesota residents stand out as having the strongest Midwestern identity, with almost 97% of respondents in each state considering themselves to live in the Midwest. These findings confirm the strength of their already suspected Midwestern identity. There were several interesting outliers in this study.

Emerson College Polling conducted statewide surveys in 22 states from October 1-4, 2023. Sample size varies by state, and each state’s sample can be found in the Full Results.Samples sizes ranged from n=451 to n=598, therefore carry different margins of error, ranging from +/- 3.98 percent to +/- 4.6% percent. The data sets were weighted by gender, age, race, and education based on the general population based data from the U.S. Census. Data was collected by contacting emails and landlines via Interactive Voice Response provided by Aristotle, along with an online panel of respondents provided by Alchemer. It is important to remember that subsets based on demographics, such as gender, age, education, and race/ethnicity, carry with them higher credibility intervals, as the sample size is reduced. Survey results should be understood within the poll’s range of scores, and know with a confidence interval of 95% a poll will fall outside the range of scores 1 in 20 times.

Which State considers themselves most Midwestern?

  • 22) Pennsylvania: 9.4%
  • 21) Tennesse: 9.7%
  • 20) West Virginia: 13%
  • 19) Idaho: 25.2%
  • 18) Arkansas: 26.6%
  • 17) Montana: 30.1%
  • 16) Kentucky: 30.8%
  • 15) Colorado: 42.1%
  • 14) Wyoming: 53.5%
  • 13) Oklahoma: 66.2%
  • 12) Ohio: 78.2%
  • 11) Michigan: 85.5%
  • 10) Kansas: 91.2%
  • 9) Indiana: 91.6%
  • 8) South Dakota: 92.2%
  • 7) Nebraska: 92.8%
  • 6) Wisconsin: 93.6%
  • 5) North Dakota: 93.8%
  • 4) Illinois: 93.8%
  • 3) Missouri: 95.3%
  • 2) Minnesota: 96.5%
  • 1) Iowa: 96.7%

So why the study? Well, Middle West Review hopes to encourage the exploration of Midwestern identity, history, geography, society, culture, and politics. The publication provides a platform for scholars and non-scholars alike to delve into the true meaning of Midwestern identity.

In a country as vast and diverse as the United States, understanding regional identities is essential. This study's findings remind us that regional identity is a dynamic concept. It offers insights into the diverse ways in which people perceive themselves, ideologies, way of living, and their sense of place in the United States.

What is "Midwest?" I'd say this is pretty Midwest...

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