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Background Statistics > People and Politics (most recent) by state

DEFINITION: People and politics profiles, includes information on state cityscapes.
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States (A to Z) Description
Alabama Demographically, the percentage of Whites in the state (71.1% in 2000) has decreased over the past several decades, whereas Black and Hispanic populations have steadily risen. The population growth in Alabama is 2.5% from 2000 to 2005, which is significantly lower than neighboring states Georgia, Florida and Tennessee, and slightly lower than Mississippi. The historic capital of Montgomery is located in the center of the state, and industrious Birmingham is the largest city. Other notable urban areas include Mobile in the extreme south, and Huntsville in the north. Though agriculture is still an important part of the economy, industry and in particular emerging bio-technology and communications firms are increasing their presence in the state. Timber is also an important economic earner. Following the Civil War, the Democratic Party dominated the political scene for approximately 100 years. Things began to change in the state in the late 1960’s as the emphasis on state’s rights by the Republican Party dovetailed with a perception of increasing liberalism within the national Democratic Party. Today, the state tends to send its 9 electoral votes to the Republican Party (as it did in 2004) while electing Democrats to local governmental positions.
Alaska Alaska is by far the least densely populated state in the U.S., with a population over 600,000, roughly equal to Austin, Texas. Some 15.6% percent of the population is Native American or Alaskan Native, and the largest ancestry group is German. Alaska also has a relatively large Eastern Orthodox population, a vestige of former Russian rule over the lands. Considering its extreme isolation from the rest of the U.S., Alaska has a relatively high per capita income (which ranks 14th in the nation). Natural resource extraction is an important economic earner, as is seafood processing, transport and shipping, and military industry. Tourism is another important sector in Alaska and has grown to become a major part of the economy. While the cost of goods in Alaska is significantly higher than in the lower 48 states, Alaska has no sales tax or personal income tax, and the average price of goods has dropped steadily in major urban areas. The capital, Juneau, is the only American capital not accessible by road. Anchorage is the largest city, and further north, Fairbanks is an important outpost which serves as a jumping off point into Alaska's interior. Alaska is regarded by many as a Republican-leaning state with Libertarian sympathies. No state has voted for a Democratic President fewer times (though it has had far fewer opportunities considering it is one of the newest U.S. states). In 2004, Alaska gave George W. Bush its 3 electoral votes by a whopping margin of 25 percentage points.
American Samoa Settled as early as 1000 B.C., Samoa was "discovered" by European explorers in the 18th century. International rivalries in the latter half of the 19th century were settled by an 1899 treaty in which Germany and the US divided the Samoan archipelago. The US formally occupied its portion - a smaller group of eastern islands with the excellent harbor of Pago Pago - the following year.
Arizona For much of the last century Arizona’s economy relied heavily on ranching, farming, and mining. Tourism was and continues to be important as well. Today, Arizona produces two-thirds of all the copper in the nation and as of 2001 almost 10 percent of the state’s private-sector workforce was employed in high-tech industries. As reported in 2003, approximately 10 percent of the nation’s Native American population lives within its boarders, making it second only to California in this respect. 25.3% of Arizona’s citizens claim Mexican heritage, according to 2005 estimates. Politically, the state has mostly favored the Republican Party in presidential elections since the 1950’s. The lone exception was the support it lent to incumbent Bill Clinton when it cast its 10 electoral votes to him in 1996.
Arkansas Arkansas is the home to the corporate headquarters of industry giants Wal-Mart, Tyson Foods, and JB Hunt. The impact of these and other multinational corporations on the state has led to a perceived economic boom, though Arkansas still has the 49th GSP per capita, the 49th per capita income, and the 5th highest percent of people below the poverty line. Unemployment rates, however, are below that of neighboring states. The African-American population in Arkansas is around 15.7%, the majority of which residing in the southern and eastern parts of the state. Arkansas has the 4th most powerful Democratic Legislature in the nation and has only sent one Republican to the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction. The Democratic Party holds super-majority status in the Arkansas General Assembly and Republicans lost seats in the State House race of 2004. While this is unusual in the modern South, the state is still considered conservative and in 2004 it granted its 3 electoral votes to George W. Bush with 54.3 percent of the vote.
California If California were its own country, it would have the 6th largest economy in the world according to the California Legislative Analyst's Office. The nation’s most populous state has a tremendous effect on American economy, culture, and identity. Los Angeles is the largest city in the state and 2nd largest in the country. Considered an entertainment Mecca, Los Angeles encompasses the city of Hollywood, home to the most powerful cinema industry in the world. Further down the coast, San Diego is one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. In the north, California is dominated by San Francisco bay area. The region between San Francisco and San Jose, known as 'Silicon Valley', is headquarters to some of the largest software and computer companies in the world. Sacramento, the state capital, is often overshadowed by more powerful Californian cities, but is itself a fast growing urban area. The dominant industry in California is by far agriculture, with exports of fruits, vegetables and wine. Other major industries include aerospace technologies and entertainment. There are major economic disparities between the wealthy coastal areas and some areas of the agricultural interior. California, now a bastion of the liberal Democratic Party, was at one time a largely conservative state. It has sent its 55 electoral votes to the last 4 Democratic presidents however, and Republican politicians in California are often considered moderates on the national scene.
Colorado The capital, Denver, came to prominence initially as a center for the mining boom that was the Colorado Gold Rush of 1859. While mining continues to be a major source of income for the state, manufacturing and agriculture also play an important role. Colorado is primarily a state of transplanted citizens. There has not been a native born Colorado governor since 1975. Politically the state has proved to be quite independent. Over the last 100 years Colorado has only had 5 more Democrats than Republicans elected to the governorship. Colorado’s 9 electoral votes went to George W. Bush in 2004 by a narrow margin of 5 percent with 51.7 percent of the vote while Democrats within the state made gains in every open seat race.
Connecticut According to many economic indicators (such as per capita income), Connecticut is the richest state in the U.S., though this belies the fact that wealth disparities in Connecticut are greatly pronounced. Generally the richest areas are concentrated in the extreme southwest (closest to New York City), whereas Hartford, the state capitol, has one of the lowest per capita incomes in all of America. The state is considered a tax haven for those with personal wealth, and it was not until 1991 that the state introduced a personal income tax. Connecticut is ranked fourth in the U.S. in terms of population density, with the largest concentration of people in the south and the middle of the state. Industrious and economically powerful for its size, Connecticut is a world leader in manufacturing nuclear-powered submarines and specialized ships. Though the state is firmly left-leaning politically, it has historically been considered one of the more conservative New England states. The state has since sent its 8 electoral votes to the last four Democratic presidential candidates.
Delaware Delaware is known by many as a corporate tax haven, and is home to countless corporate head offices and banking headquarters. Many of these businesses are centered in and around Wilmington, the state's largest city. The capital Dover is home to one of the biggest U.S. Air Force bases. Delaware is relatively one of the richest states, with the second largest gross state product per capita in the Union behind Washington DC. Much of this wealth can be attributed to its liberal tax policy. Delaware has the largest percentage of African Americans north of Maryland (approximately 20%), and historically had the largest population of free blacks during slavery. For the House of Representatives, Delaware is granted one lone seat. In presidential elections, Delaware has often been a barometer for the nation at large and sided with the winner for over 50 years. The last two presidential elections have halted that trend however, as Delaware sent its 3 electoral votes to Democratic candidates Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004.
District of Columbia The District of Columbia's peak population was in the 1950's with over 800,000 residents. Since then, the city has seen a major decline in population, and is currently losing approximately 3,500 residents every year. Due to suburban commuters working within the city, it is estimated that the population nearly doubles in the daytime to over 980,000 people. Over 60% of the resident population is African American, and the city has wide disparities in wealth. Although having the highest per capita gross domestic product in the nation, some 18.9% of the population is below the poverty level (only New Mexico, Louisiana and Mississippi have higher percentages). While some areas of the city have very low crime levels, other isolated sections have some of the highest crime rates in the U.S. The city is also consistently in the top 5 in most murderous cities in the nation. The economy is largely derived from tourism and federal administration. The District of Columbia is firmly Democratic, voting for Democratic Presidential candidates since 1964.
Florida Florida was the least populous state in the union until about the middle of the last century when immigrants from Rust Belt states found themselves attracted to the pleasant climate and thousands of miles of beaches. Today those same qualities attract upwards of 60 million visitors a year. The revenue from tourism allows for no state income tax. The aerospace industry is also important to the state’s economy having been drawn there by the establishment of the U.S. Kennedy Space Center in the 1960’s. Demographically, Florida has the highest percentage of elderly in the nation, as well as the highest percentage of Cubans. A highly contentious swing state, Florida came to the forefront of American politics in the 2000 election when its Supreme Court was charged with ruling on the disposition of the state election results. Once settled, the state cast its electoral votes for George W. Bush over Democratic opponent Al Gore.
Georgia Georgia has one of the fastest growing populations in the U.S. at a growth rate of some 10.8% over the past five years. The largest city and capital, Atlanta, is the unofficial capital of the Deep South, and home to over half of Georgia's population. The African-American population, at 28.7% according to the 2000 Census, forms a critical part of Georgia's culture, with a burgeoning center of Black professionals and elite in Atlanta (a city which itself is approximately 70% Black). Other important cities include Athens, a music and university center, Augusta, the second largest city in Georgia and home to the world famous Augusta National Golf Club, and Savannah, Georgia's only major port city. Agriculture and tourism make up a large portion of the state's economy, and Coca Cola maintains its corporate headquarters in downtown Atlanta. Politically, Georgia was a long-time Democratic Party bastion, controlling the Governorship, the House and the Senate for over 130 years. Democratic control did not imply strong liberalism however, as the Southern Democrats (known as Dixiecrats) owed much of their political success to their solid support for segregation. Recent history has shown a drastic shift in the political make-up of the state, where Republicans currently control all three branches of Government. George W. Bush won the state in both 2000 and 2004 by wide margins.
Guam Guam was ceded to the US by Spain in 1898. Captured by the Japanese in 1941, it was retaken by the US three years later. The military installation on the island is one of the most strategically important US bases in the Pacific.
Hawaii Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. where the majority population is non-white, and is also home to the largest percentage Asian-Americans in the United States at 41.6% according to the 2000 Census. The largest industry by far is tourism, contributing just under a quarter of the total Gross State Product. Hawaii's lush flora and indigenous wildlife are major tourist attractions, though the threat to these species has earned Hawaii the dubious moniker of 'the endangered species capital of the United States'. Hawaiians have one of the largest tax burdens in the country due to the fact that many services are administered directly by the state, as opposed to municipal administration in other U.S. states. O'ahu, at over a million people, is the most populous island and home to the largest city and capital Honolulu, which itself is considered the 'most international city in the United States'. Hawaii is predominately a Democratic state, sending its 4 electoral votes to the last 5 Democratic Presidential candidates. A total of two seats are reserved in the House of Representatives for Hawaii. The state also had the lowest voter turnout in the 2004 presidential election.
Idaho German is Idaho's largest ancestral group at approximately 18.9%. The fast-growing Hispanic population, currently at about 7.9% according to 2005 estimates, is the largest minority group. Idaho itself is the fifth fastest growing state in the nation, with urban areas in the south experiencing huge population booms, in particular the Boise-Nampa area, and Idaho Falls. Boise is the capital and largest city in the state. The city is the economic hub of the region and home to the largest Basque community outside of the Basque region in Spain and France. Other important cities include Pocatello is the southeast, and the transport hub and tourist town of Coeur d'Alene. Agriculture is an important economic earner. The famous Idaho potato has been an essential part of the American diet for much of the twentieth century (one third of all potatoes in the U.S. come from Idaho), though the state also has significant bean, sugar beet, cattle, and dairy product exports. Manufacturing is another critical sector of the economy, dominating much of Idaho's southern cities, and employing much of the population in a state which enjoys relatively low unemployment. Northern Idaho has one of the highest concentrations of militant right wing communities in the nation. Idaho is a conservative stronghold, voting Republican in every presidential election since 1964. George W. Bush carried the state in 2004 by a margin of 36 percentage points.
Illinois Just under a quarter of the population of Illinois lives in Chicago, though over 65% of the population lives in what is known as 'Chicagoland', the metropolitan expanse that includes cities as far away as Rockford. Other major urban areas include 'Metro-East', the Illinois side of the Greater St. Louis Metropolitan Area, as well as the central urban areas of Champaign-Urbana, Bloomington-Normal, and Peoria. The gross state product of Illinois is approximately $528 billion (2004), which is 5th in the nation. Coincidentally, the state's population is also 5th in the U.S. Manufacturing in the Chicago area makes up a significant portion of the economy, with world-leading industries in metal fabrication, electronic and transportation equipment, chemical products and machinery, as well as home to one of the publishing capitals of the world. This tremendous output of industry, as well as the giant expanse of Greater Chicago, is mostly why the area is dubbed 'the broad shoulders of America'. Agriculture is also an important economic earner, with corn, soybean, hogs and cattle leading the way. Illinois is considered a swing state, with the majority of Democratic Party voters residing in the cities. Suburban Chicago was traditionally a GOP stronghold, but is fast shifting toward the left. The consequences of this shift might best explain the recent success of the Democratic Party in Illinois, which has won the state's 21 electoral votes in the last 4 presidential elections, including an 11 percentage point margin for John Kerry in 2004.
Indiana Indiana is thought to have one of the most business-friendly economies in the union. Low taxes, conservative labor laws, and the presence of a large skilled workforce have helped it to weather the tide of de-industrialization better than many of the neighboring Rust Belt states. Manufacturing makes up much of the state’s economy, with modern industrial parks intermingling with farmland in much of the northern regions of the state. Agriculture, in particular corn, soy, and tobacco, is a significant sector of the economy. Indianapolis is by far the largest city in the state and the capital. It is the economic and cultural hub of Indiana, and is one of the most populated state capitals in the U.S. Other major cities include industrious Fort Wayne in the northeast; Evansville in the southwestern corner on the Ohio River; major university cities of South Bend and Bloomington; and Gary, effectively a suburb of Chicago, which has the highest crime rate and some of the lowest average household incomes in Indiana. Demographically, the largest ancestral group in Indiana is German, at about 22.7% of the total population. There are also large Polish and Belgian communities in the state. The African-American population stands at 8.4%, with communities concentrated in the urban areas of Gary and Indianapolis. Indiana is a conservative state that has a long tradition of Republican control. This can be compared to its neighbors Illinois, Ohio and Michigan, which are all considered swing states with considerable Democratic influence. Despite this, fully half of the governors of Indiana have been Democrats, though right-leaning. On the national level, Indiana has not voted for a Democratic Presidential candidate since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 and that was only by a margin of 2 percent. In 2004 its 11 electoral votes went to George W. Bush by a relatively wide margin.
Iowa Located in the heart of the American breadbasket, Iowa is one of the nation's leading producers of corn, soybeans, oats and hogs. Farm life makes up a great deal of the cultural identity of Iowa, though certainly not all. Ames and Iowa City boast major universities and lively cultural centers. The Iowa Writers' Workshop is also a leading college and graduate-level creative writing program whose graduates include John Irving, Flannery O'Connor and Philip Levine. Des Moines, the largest city and capital of Iowa, is dubbed the 'Insurance Capital of America' with major financial service corporations based there. Education is given a high priority in Iowa, with a low teacher-student ratio, well-funded library services and high average test scores compared to most U.S. states. Iowa has one of the highest percentages of White, non-Hispanic populations at 92.6%, with over 35% of the overall population claiming German ancestry. From the 1980 Census to the 1990 Census, Iowa's population decreased by some 137,000 people, mainly due to 'rural flight'. Important urban areas include the Quad Cities area, shared by neighboring Illinois, and Cedar Rapids, long time home of Grant Wood, whose 'American Gothic' portrait perhaps best personifies the stereotypical Iowan couple.
Kansas Demographically, some 25.9% of people from Kansas claim German ancestry. In 1990, the African-American population in the state stood at about 5.7%, while the Hispanic population was roughly 3.8%. 2005 estimates have shown that Hispanics make up about 8.2% of the population, while the African-American population has stayed roughly the same. Kansas has long had a reputation for progressive legislation. While not the first state to allow women to vote it was the first state to elect a woman mayor (Argonia, KS, 1887). Other firsts include the institution of a system for worker’s compensation in 1910 and the abolishment of the 'separate but equal' standard for racial segregated schools. The Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka trial banned racially segregated schools throughout the U.S. Over the last 40 years the barometer has swung more to the conservative side of things. A Democratic presidential candidate has not won the state since 1964. In 2004, George W. Bush won the state’s 6 electoral votes with a whopping 62 percent of the vote, 25 percent over his opponent.
Kentucky Demographically, Kentucky lies in the middle of the U.S. in both population and population density (25th and 23rd respectively), and has a considerably small population of foreign born residents (approximately 2.3% according to 2004 Census estimates). In the 2000 Census, over 20% of Kentucky's residents identified their ancestry as 'American'. Louisville is the largest city in the state, with approximately a half a million people. Louisville is also home to perhaps the most famous horse-racing event, the Kentucky Derby. Other important cities include Lexington in the heart of Bluegrass, and the capitol Frankfurt. Kentucky is famous for being the birthplace bourbon, a specially blended whisky of corn, rye, wheat and malted barley. Today the vast majority of bourbon is still distilled in Kentucky. Other notable manufactures include the Louisville baseball bat, and approximately 90% of America's disco balls. Kentucky has historically been considered a swing state, though George W. Bush won the state's 8 electoral votes in both 2000 and 2004 by wide margins.
Louisiana The largest ancestries in Louisiana are African-American and Franco-African, at approximately 32.5% (2005 estimates). These groups have contributed to a great portion of the culture and history of Louisiana, and in particular New Orleans, a city which saw the rise of Jazz. The vast majority of African-American culture in Louisiana is in fact distinctly Franco-African. Creoles of West-African heritage dominate much of the southern regions of Louisiana, while the White population of Louisiana is the great majority in much of the northern parishes of the state. Louisiana is the largest producer of crayfish in the world. Unsurprisingly, seafood dominates the state's agricultural outputs. Tourism is an important economic earner, while petroleum, food processing and chemical products are a critical part of Louisiana's industry. Baton Rouge is the capital of the state whereas New Orleans is the largest city, cultural, economic and entertainment hub, as well as a major sea port. Crime in Louisiana is a significant problem. The state leads the nation in homicides per capita, the per capita number of state and federal prisoners in jail, as well as relatively high levels of aggravated assaults and violent crimes. Health is also a major concern in Louisiana. The state came out dead last in the Health Index published by Morgan Quitno Press, with a high rate of child death, the highest rates of STD's like syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea and low health coverage for residents. These issues were only exacerbated by the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, where damaged levees flooded much of New Orleans, displaced approximately two million people and killed more than a thousand residents of Louisiana. The effects of Katrina (and later Rita) are still being assessed, though hundreds of millions of dollars will be needed to rebuild New Orleans, one of the most historic and cultural cities in America. Louisiana tends to vote Democratic on local state levels, and recently, Republican on the national level. The state gave its 9 electoral votes to George W. Bush in the last two elections.
Maine Maine has the highest percentage of non-Hispanic whites in the U.S., as well as the largest percentage of French speakers. The largest ancestry is British (21.5%) followed by Irish and French. The economy of Maine relies largely on seafood, of which the most famous is lobster. Other important agricultural outputs are poultry, maple syrup, and berries. Paper and wood products are an important source of industrial earnings, followed by bio-technology, and food and leather products. Tourism is an important and growing sector, with attractions like Bar Harbor, numerous lighthouses, and the wilderness of Maine's interior. Portland is the largest city, a main tourist attraction in its own right, and the cultural and economic hub of the state. Augusta is the sleepy capital on the Kennebec River, and other major cities include the university town of Bangor, and Lewiston. Maine's politics have traditionally been left of center since the 1960's, though some regard it as a potential swing state. Maine has voted Democrat in the last four Presidential elections.
Maryland The vast majority of Maryland's population lives in the center of the state, known as the Baltimore-Washington DC corridor. Baltimore, the state's largest city and home to one of the best deep water ports in the world, is currently experiencing a renaissance, as the population has steadily risen, crime is down, and the Inner Harbor is being renovated and revitalized. Outside of Baltimore, the pleasant town of Annapolis is the capital of Maryland and home to the U.S. Naval Academy. It was also at one time the temporary capital of the United States after the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Maryland has the largest percentage of African Americans outside of the Deep South, and a significant population of Marylanders with British ancestry. Maryland also has one of the highest percentages of white collar workers, at around 25%, due largely to its close proximity to Washington DC and nationally recognized research institutions like Johns Hopkins University. As a consequence, the per capita personal income for Maryland was $41,929.24 in 2005, the 5th largest in the nation. The Democratic Party has dominated Maryland's politics for nearly a century and a half. Both U.S. Senators and all 6 House Representatives are Democrats. John Kerry won the state's 4 electoral votes in 2004 by a wide margin, as did the last 3 Democratic Presidential candidates.
Massachusetts Over 20% of Bay Staters (an official term for those from Massachusetts) claim Irish ancestry, making it the most Irish state in the nation. Italian, English and French are other dominate ancestral groups. Some important ethnic groups are the Portuguese and Brazilian heritages along the south coast, and the Cambodian community in Lowell (the second largest in the U.S.). The Boston area is by far the largest concentrated urban area in the state, and one of the foremost cities for higher education in the world, with Harvard and MIT leading the way. During the school year, it is said that some 25% of Bostonians are students. Other major urban areas include Springfield, the birthplace of basketball, and the second largest city in Massachusetts, Worcester. The Commonwealth is a decidedly liberal state, home to the iconic Kennedy family, with Democrats in control of nearly every significant political office (a notable exception is the governorship). Massachusetts also gave native John Kerry the largest margin of victory in the 2004 Presidential election, winning the state by 25 percentage points. The Bay State has given its 12 electoral votes to the last 4 Democratic Presidential candidates.
Michigan Michigan has the 8th largest population in the U.S., the vast majority of which is located in the Lower Peninsula. Detroit is the largest city in the state and considered one of the most racially segregated cities in the U.S., with massive suburban outflux by the White population, and with over 80% of the population in the city limits being African-American. Metro Detroit also has the largest population of Belgians outside Belgium, a significant Arab-American community, and a booming Chicano community is southwest Detroit. The city itself has decreased in population on every dicentennial Census since 1960, and, on the 2000 Census, dipped below one million for the first time since 1920. Other important cities include Grand Rapids, a furniture and automobile manufacturing center; Flint, the birthplace of General Motors; Lansing, the state's capital; and Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan. Auto manufacturing has been the backbone of Michigan's economy throughout much of the 20th century, with General Motors, Ford Motor Company and DaimlerChrysler all having headquarters in Metro Detroit. When the auto industry suffers, the immediate effect is felt in much of Michigan, with a general economic downslide persisting in the region as the American auto industry continues to slim down in the face of foreign competition. Michiganders tend to lean left politically due to the state's industry and union heritage, though in 2004, the state's 17 electoral votes were only narrowly won by John Kerry, by a margin of 3% points.
Minnesota Minnesota culture is defined by a distinctive Upper Midwest accent, Scandinavian culture and a propensity for kindness which has been dubbed "Minnesota Nice". The state is dominated by the cultural hub of the Twin Cities, composed of the capital St. Paul and the largest city Minneapolis (each roughly located on the east and west banks of the Mississippi river respectively) as well as the surrounding suburbs which extend widely into the Minnesota farmland around. Other important cities include Duluth, a major port city on Lake Superior, Rochester, home to the world famous hospital the Mayo Clinic, and Saint Cloud, one of the fastest growing cities in the Midwest. Minnesota is consistently rated as one of the best educated and healthiest populations in the nation, with the longest life expectancy and the highest percentage of residents with a high school diploma or higher. Minneapolis is also considered one of the best cities to live in, and is notable for its large Somali community (2nd largest in the U.S. behind New York City), vibrant local music scene, and liberal attitudes. Minnesota's economy is dominated by agriculture (in particular corn and soybeans) and manufacturing, with medical equipment and machine manufacturing leading the way. Mining in the north region called the Iron Range has been historically important to the state's economy, but has decreased in activity over recent decades. Home of the first indoor shopping mall, Minnesota now boasts the largest shopping center in the U.S. (appropriately called the Mall of America) which brings in thousands of tourists every year. Minnesota is largely a liberal state, giving Democratic candidates its 10 electoral votes in the last 8 Presidential elections, a current string of Democratic victories longer than any other state. Third party candidates also enjoy wide support in Minnesota, with Ralph Nader receiving the fourth most votes from Minnesota in 2000, and one-time pro wrestler and Reform Party candidate Jessie Ventura winning the governorship in 1998.
Mississippi According to 2004 estimates, some 37% of Mississippi's population is African American, who were the majority population until the 1940's. The White population of the state is predominantly native-born, and typically of Northern European descent. The economy of Mississippi has yet to recover from the Civil War era (in the 1850's, Mississippi was one of the wealthiest states in the U.S.) though the state is currently undergoing increasing industrialization. The 2004, per capita income of Mississippi is 51st in the U.S. (including the District of Columbia), and has one of the highest percentages of the population below the poverty level. Jackson is the largest city and state capital, and the Gulf Coast area, though devastated by Hurricane Katrina, is the wealthiest region in the state. The largely conservative political makeup has led to Republican victories in the last two Presidential elections, though before the gradual platform shift of Southern Democrats, Mississippi had string of 116 consecutive years of Democratic Governorship.
Missouri Most Missourians consider their state part of Midwest but it was originally thought part of the South. Today, this distinction is generally divided among urban and rural lines, with many in the metropolitan areas of Kansas City and St. Louis regard the region as distinctively Midwestern. Missouri has a lower tax rate than any state it borders. It is primarily an agricultural state although it leads the nation in lead production and is one of the top producers of lime. The state is a perfect blend of North, South, East, and West. It has the same percentage of African-Americans as the nation as a whole, the same percentage of union workers, and the same rural/urban ratio. With the exception of the time it cast its lot with Adlai Stevenson in 1956, in every presidential election since 1900 Missouri has voted for the winner.
Montana Despite its large geographic size, Montana has just under one million people in the state, making it 44th in terms of population. Montana has one of the lowest percentages of foreign born residents (at approximately 1.8%) as well as one of the lowest percentages of African Americans (roughly 0.3%). German is the largest ancestral group, followed by Irish and English. The largest city is Billings, a major transport and tourist hub, and the capital is Helena. Other major cities include Butte, on the edge of the Rocky Mountain peaks, and Missoula, a cultural hot spot and university town. Agriculture is arguably the most important economic sector, with cattle, wheat and barley leading the way. Mining and lumber products are also important industries. A growing and traditionally important economic sector is tourism, with largely unspoiled mountain ranges, excellent fishing and hunting, and large National Parks. Montana has always been considered a conservative state, though state politics has recently seen some major Democratic victories. Montana's voice on the national scene is still firmly Republican however, giving its 3 electoral votes to George W. Bush in 2004 by an overwhelming margin of 20 percentage points.
Nebraska Nebraska’s agricultural sector is a very large part of its economy and the state is a national leader in beef, corn and soy production. Other important industries of note within the state are telecommunications, information technology and insurance. The per capita personal income of the state is 23rd, just below Florida and above Vermont. Education standards in Nebraska are above that of neighboring states, with a positive Educational Index, and relatively higher levels of funding for elementary and primary schools. University tradition in the ‘Cornhusker State’ is very strong, and contributes to relatively high in-state enrollment. Despite this, the state is one of those suffering from Rural Flight which has affecting much of the Midwest and Great Plains states. The largest ancestry group in the state is German, at 38.6% (2004 estimates). Nebraska has the largest percentage of Czech-Americans in the U.S., comprising approximately 4.9% of the total population. Omaha is the largest city and economic hub of the state, lying on the west bank of the Missouri River, and together with Council Bluffs, Iowa, makes up a large metropolitan area. Lincoln is the capital of the state and the 2nd largest city. In presidential elections, the state has been a Republican stronghold since the 1940’s. The lone exception during this time was the support it lent to Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. In 2004, George W. Bush carried the state with 65.9% of the vote to win the state’s 5 electoral votes.
Nevada Nevada has the fastest growing population in the United States, led largely by booming Las Vegas, a city twice as large as any other in the state, and itself one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. Other urban areas include Reno-Sparks, and the capital Carson City. Lake Tahoe, on the border with California, is a popular tourist destination for skiing and watersports. The fast growing population of Hispanic or Latino makes up nearly 20% of the population. Nevada's Harry Reid is Democratic Senate Minority Leader, and there are 3 Nevada seats in the House of Representatives. The 5 electoral votes for Nevada are often closely contested, with Bill Clinton and George W. Bush each winning the state twice. The sheer size of more liberal Las Vegas is often just enough to balance the scales in an otherwise conservative state.
New Hampshire New Hampshire has a high percentage of people from 'old colonial' ancestry, that is, people whose descendants were original colonists. Some 19% of the population is Irish and 18% British. Industrialization hit New Hampshire early in its history, with textile and paper mills dominating small and large towns. Most of this industry has suffered from serious decline, but the growth of high-tech industries and tourism has helped prop up the economy. The extreme southern regions of the state have the fastest growing populations, whereas the northern region has less than 5% of the population and relatively high levels of poverty. New Hampshire's liberal tax policy encourages the growth of small bio-businesses, light industry, and service firms. The state is arguably the most conservative in New England, with long time support for the Republican Party. Recent trends, however, suggest New Hampshire is turning into a swing state, giving its 4 electoral votes to John Kerry in 2004, becoming the only state to vote for George W. Bush in 2000 but not in 2004. Libertarian politics have strong traditions in the state, with the highest density of Libertarian party members in the country. It is also the only state in the Union which allows for revolution.
New Jersey New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the U.S. The major urban centers of northeast and southwest New Jersey are in close proximity to the cities of New York and Philadelphia respectively. New Jersey is one of the most ethnically diverse states in the U.S. with significant populations of Muslims, African Americans and Italian-Americans. The median household income of New Jersey, at $61,359 in 2004, is the highest in the U.S. New Jersey also has one of the largest business communities in the nation, with many major corporations based out of northern New Jersey. Coined the 'Garden State', New Jersey does have some significant agricultural exports such as eggplant and blueberries. For its population size and density, New Jersey has surprisingly few large cities, with only six over 100,000 people according to 2004 Census estimates. Newark, once considered the best example of white flight, urban violence and industrial wasteland, is the largest city and currently experiencing a resurgence. Other major cities include Jersey City, Patterson, the gambling and entertainment hub Atlantic City, and Princeton, home to one of the finest universities in the world. New Jersey is politically a swing state, but has recently leaned to the left in elections, giving John Kerry the state's 15 electoral votes in 2004. The state has 13 seats in the House of Representatives.
New Mexico Military research facilities were established in the state during and just after the close of World War II. The Los Alamos Research Center and the Sandia National Laboratories both served to establish the state as the research and development leader in fields such as nuclear, solar and geothermal energy. The first company to develop commercial space flights has placed its headquarters and mission control here. The largest city, Albuquerque, is an economic and transport hub. Santa Fe, the state capital, is often rated as one of the best places in the U.S. to live, with a lively cultural feel and liberal attitude. The peaceful atmosphere and favorable climate have made New Mexico a popular retirement destination for many of America’s elderly. Tourism is an important economic earner, with New Mexico’s natural beauty drawing thousands of visitors every year. Concerning presidential politics, New Mexico has given its electoral votes to all but two presidential winners over the last 94 years – one Republican and one Democrat. In the 2004 election George W. Bush won the state by a margin of a mere 0.8 percent.
New York New York is the 3rd most populous state in the Union (and most populous east of the Mississippi) with over 19 million people according to 2004 estimates. This makes New York 6th in the U.S. in terms of population density, with just over 400 people per square mile, roughly equal to that of Delaware. New York City is clearly the largest urban area, stretching from the Westchester suburbs to the communities on Long Island. The city itself is an international center of finance, entertainment and culture, with crime rates that continue to fall dramatically. In 2005, U.S. cities a quarter the size of New York sometimes had double the number of murders (a prime example being Kansas City). Other urban areas include Albany, the state capital; Buffalo, a center of culture and education; Syracuse, hub of Central New York and university town; and Rochester, long-time home of the Eastman Kodak Company. New York has the 2nd largest economy in terms of gross state product, and, depending on which indicator you use, has anywhere between the 11th to the 16th largest economy in the world. It is seen as roughly equal to the economy of South Korea. New York’s finance and vast marketplace obviously dominates the economy of the state, though other economic areas should not be overlooked, as New York is one of the nation's largest agricultural producers, in particular dairy, cabbage, potatoes, onions and apples. New York is considered a liberal, Democratic-leaning state, though some rural areas upstate are considered conservative enclaves. In 2004, John Kerry won the state's 31 electoral votes by a wide margin, as did the last four Democratic Presidential candidates.
North Carolina North Carolina’s economy has long been based on agriculture. Love it or hate it, one of its first products is still vital to the state’s economic backbone: tobacco. More recently the areas of banking, technology and research have been on the rise giving the state new life. Charlotte is the second biggest banking center in the U.S. North Carolina has the highest burglary per capita rate in the U.S. The state is home to the largest military base in North America, Fort Bragg. With the number of Navy and Marine Corps bases here it also has the largest concentration of sailors and Marines in the world. Largely a conservative state, in the 2004 presidential election North Carolina gave its 15 electoral votes to George W. Bush.
North Dakota German is by far the largest ancestry group in North Dakota, with nearly 44% of the population citing majority heritage in 2000. Some counties however, have large Russian, Ukrainian and Hungarian populations. Approximately 5% of the population is American Indian. From the 2000 Census to 2005 population estimates, North Dakota lost roughly 18,000 people, and population trends show the decline could continue. The economy of North Dakota is largely agricultural, though much of the land is arid and not suitable for large-scale agricultural production. The exception is the Red River Valley, a fertile strip of land near the Minnesotan border which was devastated by a flood in 1997. The region is also home to North Dakota's largest city and cultural hub, Fargo, as well as the city of Grand Forks. The capital, Bismarck, is in the center of the state, and the city of Minot is noted for its U.S. Airforce base. Because of the state's strategic isolation, North Dakota has a large number of ICBM (inter-continental ballistic missile) silos. Important economy industries include wind energy technologies and food processing. Firmly conservative, the state has given its 3 electoral votes to every Republican Presidential candidate since 1964.
Northern Mariana Islands Under US administration as part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific, the people of the Northern Mariana Islands decided in the 1970s not to seek independence but instead to forge closer links with the US. Negotiations for territorial status began in 1972. A covenant to establish a commonwealth in political union with the US was approved in 1975. A new government and constitution went into effect in 1978.
Ohio Led by booming industrial centers, Ohio saw steady growth in population throughout the 20th century, and is now the 7th largest state in population. Ohio is a major producer of machinery, tires and rubber products, tools and fabricated metal products. Agriculture also plays an important role in the economy, with corn, soybeans and dairy products leading the way in terms of output. Though Ohio is 7th in gross state product, its GSP per capita is 30th, due largely to wide disparities in wealth. Nearly a quarter of the population claimed German heritage in the 2000 Census. The state also has large African American populations in urban areas, and the largest percentage of Hungarian-Americans in the U.S. Racial tensions are pronounced in urban areas of Ohio, in particular Cincinnati, where race riots erupted in April 2001. Columbus, in the center of the state, is the capital and largest city (though Cleveland has the largest metropolitan area). Other major cities include Toledo, Akron, Dayton and Youngstown. Ohio is very much a swing state and the focal point of the 2004 election. The urban areas tend to vote Democratic, whereas the more rural and suburban areas tend to the Right. The state's 20 electoral votes (a significant number for a swing state) were won by both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton twice.
Oklahoma 7.8% of Oklahomans are Native American; the third highest percentage in the U.S. In terms of pure numbers, Oklahoma has the largest Native American population of any state in the Union. The African-American population stands at about 7.6%, nearly equal to that of the Native American population though rising at a faster rate. Oklahoma has more man-made lakes than any other state with more than one million bodies of water. This is due to the semi-arid climate of the state, and the need for intensive irrigation. Oklahoma City is the largest city in the state and the capital. It suffered from one of the worst terrorist attacks in U.S. history in 1995 when a Gulf War veteran and a small handful of conspirators blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people. Tulsa is the second largest city in the state and an important center for aerospace, energy, and telecommunications. Oil and natural gas makes up the largest part of the state economy. Oil wells and gas lines dot the landscape and make Oklahoma City a major transport hub. Oklahoma is the 3rd largest producer of natural gas in the U.S. When it became a state, Oklahoma had the longest constitution in the world. Interestingly, while there are more registered Democrats than Republicans in the state, the Republican candidate for president has carried the state in every election since 1968. George W. Bush won every county with 65.6 percent of the vote in 2004.
Oregon Oregonians are concentrated mainly in the Northwestern part of the state, along the Columbia River Gorge and on the Pacific Coast. Oregon has a relatively high percentage of foreign born residents (roughly 8.7% of the population) and significant Hispanic and Asian populations. The largest city and cultural hub of the state is Portland, consistently rated as one of the most livable cities in the U.S. The capital Salem is located in the Willamette Valley. Other major cities include Eugene, home to the University of Oregon, and Bend, on the foothills of the Cascade Range. Oregon is considered one of the least religious states in the U.S., with some 12% of the population being affiliated with a church and roughly one in four Oregonians identifying themselves as non-religious. Oregon's economy is underpinned by large and varied agricultural production, including fruits, cattle, dairy products and wine. The timber industry, while hindered by forest fires and over-harvesting, is still a significant economic industry. High-tech industries in and around Portland have established themselves in recent years. Oregon is also home to the shoemaker Nike, whose headquarters are located in Beaverton. The state is considered left-leaning politically, giving the last five Democratic Presidential candidates its 7 electoral votes.
Pennsylvania The culture and demographic make-up of Eastern Pennsylvania, with the major city being Philadelphia, is quite distinct from Western Pennsylvania, centered around the historic steel city of Pittsburgh. In the central part of the state lies the capital Harrisburg, the famous chocolate town of Hershey, and further to the south, the Pennsylvania Dutch region with some of the largest Amish and Mennonite communities in the world. Pennsylvania has the 6th largest gross state product in the U.S., just below Illinois and above Ohio. The Keystone State is also the 6th most populous state in the Union. Just over 25% of Pennsylvanians claim German ancestry, while Asian and Hispanic communities within the state represent some of the fastest growing minority populations in the U.S. The economy of Pennsylvania is diversified and unsurprisingly divided between the Eastern and Western halves of the state. The Philadelphia area is known as a banking and finance center, home to the East Coast U.S. Mint, and the Federal Reserve. Manufacturing also plays an important role in the city, though further north, in particular Allentown and Bethlehem, are notable steel areas. Western Pennsylvania has a decidedly Midwestern feel, where heavy manufacturing once boomed. Pittsburgh, dubbed the 'Steel City', went through decades of decline after the fall of heavy U.S. manufacturing, but is currently going through a revival. Also known as the 'City of Three Rivers', Pittsburgh has more bridges than any other city in the world. Pennsylvania is an important swing state in elections, though the Democratic Party has managed to win the state's 21 electoral votes in the last four Presidential elections.
Puerto Rico Populated for centuries by aboriginal peoples, the island was claimed by the Spanish Crown in 1493 following Columbus' second voyage to the Americas. In 1898, after 400 years of colonial rule that saw the indigenous population nearly exterminated and African slave labor introduced, Puerto Rico was ceded to the US as a result of the Spanish-American War. Puerto Ricans were granted US citizenship in 1917. Popularly-elected governors have served since 1948. In 1952, a constitution was enacted providing for internal self government. In plebiscites held in 1967, 1993, and 1998, voters chose to retain commonwealth status.
Rhode Island Hispanics make up the largest minority group in Rhode Island, at approximately 8.7% according to 2005 estimates. The three largest ancestral groups are Italian, Irish, and French/French-Canadian. The state has the largest percentage of Italian-Americans and Portuguese than any other state in the nation. Providence, the largest city and capital, is the economic, cultural and political hub of the state. Though Rhode Island is 45th in the nation for gross state product, it is 16th in per capita personal income. Health services, tourism, and manufacturing are the biggest industries. Jewelry and silverware are particularly strong industries in the Providence area. Rhode Island has the largest percentage of Catholics in the nation, due mainly to the Italian, Irish, Portuguese and French populations. Despite Republican strength in the early 20th century, the state is largely Democratic, voting Left in the last 5 Presidential candidates.
South Carolina Once making up nearly 75% of the population, the African American community in South Carolina currently stands at roughly 30%. The White population mainly lives in the upper coastal areas and in certain urban and suburban areas. South Carolina is considered a rather religious state, with a mere 7% of the population claiming to be non-religious. The capital and largest city is Columbia, located in the middle of the state, and considered to be the economic hub. Charleston, located on the Atlantic coast, was at one time the fifth largest city in America and typified the high culture of the Deep South. Another major urban center is the Greenville-Spartanburg area in the northwestern corner of the state. Once dominated by agriculture, South Carolina's economy has diversified considerably and includes major manufacturing centers, service firms and hi-tech companies. Tourism is also a major economic earner, with the popular ocean-side destination of Myrtle Beach leading the way. Crime is considered a major issue, as South Carolina leads the U.S. in aggravated assaults and violent crimes per capita. It also has a relatively high rate of per capita burglaries and property crimes. South Carolina is now a firmly Republican state, though it was once a bastion of the 'Dixiecrat' movement. The state gave its 8 electoral votes to George W. Bush by overwhelming margins in the last two presidential elections.
South Dakota Just under half of South Dakota's population is rural according to 2005 estimates, with the majority of the urban population located in the extreme southeast - clustered around the largest city Sioux Falls - and along the Interstate corridors which bisect the state. Over 40% of South Dakotans claim German ancestry, and the Native Indian population, at approximately 8.3%, is the third highest in the U.S. The relatively secluded capital of Pierre on the banks of the Missouri river is the second smallest capital in the U.S. (after Montpelier Vermont) with a population of 13,876 in the 2000 census. Tourism is a major industry in some parts of South Dakota, with Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills leading the way, followed by the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally held yearly, the Wall Drug store in the town of Wall, and the Corn Palace in Mitchell. A demographic phenomenon known as 'rural flight' is currently taking place in South Dakota, which has some of the cheapest real estate in all of the United States. One-time Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle and former Presidential hopeful George McGovern are notable liberal Democrats in an otherwise conservative state. South Dakota sent its 3 electoral votes to George W. Bush in 2004 by an overwhelming margin of 22 percentage points. The state has one seat in the House of Representatives.
Tennessee The main population centers of Tennessee are Memphis in the extreme southwest, the capital Nashville in the center of the state, and a population trail in the east extending from Chattanooga to Knoxville, the largest city in Western Tennessee. Memphis is the largest city in the state and is currently enjoying a boom due largely to new hi-tech jobs and lively culture. African Americans, which once made up a quarter of all residents, are currently at about 16.4% of the population. In terms of education, Tennessee is consistently found in the bottom half of indicators, showing up 50th in total elementary and secondary education expenditures per capita as well as 51st in public library expenditures per capita. Politically, Tennessee is firmly Republican, though most major urban centers show some strong support for Democratic candidates. Eastern Tennessee has a long been a Republican bastion, even as much of the rest of the south was firmly Southern Democrat.
Texas More than one third of Texans are of Hispanic origin, contributing much to the culture and economy of the state. The Black population stands at about 11.3%, with the largest communities centered around the eastern portion of the state. Texas is the only state in the U.S. with three cities over one million people - Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. Houston is the largest, and the center of the oil industry. Dallas is a world-renowned manufacturing center and a major transport hub. San Antonio is a lively and multi-cultural city located in the south-central part of the state. Austin, the state capital, is the 4th largest city in Texas and renowned for its music scene. Texas is a world leader in medical research and healthcare, home to the world famous Texas Medical Center where more heart transplants are performed than anywhere else in the world. Once a rural-based economy dependent on cotton farming, Texas has gone through radical changes in the past 6 or 7 decades, becoming a major manufacturing and information technology center, as well as a global leader in oil and gas extraction and processing. Houston has one of the busiest ports in the world, while the Dallas-Ft. Worth area is a major metropolitan area with the 3rd largest airport in the world. Capital Punishment is widely supported in Texas. Over a 27 year period, the state has executed more inmates than the next 5 states combined. Texas is a firmly conservative state, both fiscally and socially, though there are pockets Democratic strongholds. The state unsurprisingly gave fellow Texan and former Governor George W. Bush a wide margin of victory in the 2004 Presidential Elections.
US Virgin Islands During the 17th century, the archipelago was divided into two territorial units, one English and the other Danish. Sugarcane, produced by slave labor, drove the islands' economy during the 18th and early 19th centuries. In 1917, the US purchased the Danish portion, which had been in economic decline since the abolition of slavery in 1848.
Utah Utah has the largest percentage of people claiming British and Danish ancestry. Some 60% of Utahns claim religious affiliation with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a unique and distinctively American religion (though today some six and a half million adherents live outside the U.S.) which was founded in 1820. Utah is one of the fastest growing states in the nation, in particular the Salt Lake City Area and Saint George metropolitan area in the extreme south of the state. Hispanics and Asians form rapidly growing communities in Utah. Salt Lake City, the cultural and economic center of the state, is also the most populated and the state capital. Utah has one of the highest fertility rates in the U.S., and as a consequence, one of the largest percentages of residents under 18. Utah also suffers from one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the nation. Much of Utah's economy is derived from tourism, with National Parks, skiing and Salt Lake City topping the list. Politically, Utah is one of the most conservative and Republican states in the U.S. In 2004, George W. Bush won every county in Utah and received his largest margin of victory, with an overwhelming 46 percentage points.
Vermont Statistically, Vermont is the Whitest state in the Union, with some 96.6% of Vermonters identifying themselves as White alone. Its growth rate over the last four years stands at 2.3%, well below neighboring New Hampshire. Burlington, on the shores of Lake Champlain, is the cultural and economic center, as well as the largest city. The Burlington metropolitan area comprises one third of the entire population of Vermont. Montpelier, located in the center of the state, is the smallest populated state capital in the U.S., and the only one without a McDonald’s restaurant. English is the largest ancestral group, at around 18.4% of the population. Irish and French heritage are also common throughout much of the state. Farming was at one time the largest portion of Vermont's economy, but as farmers moved to the Midwest in search of more expansive and fertile grounds, vast areas of the state have been reforested. Tourism is now the state's largest industry, with dairy farming making up a large part of the economy. Maple Syrup is perhaps the most famous of Vermont's exports (with a strong challenge coming from Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream); the state makes up some 25% of all maple syrup production in America. Vermont is seen by many as the most liberal state in the nation, with legislation on civil unions for same sex couples and a focus on environmentalism, though some regard it as more independent and libertarian than firmly on the Left. The state was once devotedly Republican, and with the exception of Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, Vermont had never voted for a Democratic Presidential Candidate until 1992.
Virginia The population of Virginia is concentrated in the eastern half of the state: in the north around Alexandria and Arlington; in the east-central region around the capital Richmond; and in the extreme southeast around the cities of Norfolk and, the state's largest city, Virginia Beach. The largest reported ancestry in the 2000 Census was African-American at around 20% of the population (during slavery, the African-American population was around 50%). There are rapidly growing populations of Asian-Americans and Hispanics around the northern suburbs of Washington DC. It is in this area where a significant number of governmental professionals and diplomats reside and maintain offices. Virginia's economy is well diversified and includes tobacco farming and machine manufacturing, as well as defense contracting and computer technology in the north. The headquarters of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, known to some as 'Langley', is also located in Northern Virginia.
Washington Washington is culturally and politically divided along the same geographical divisions, with Eastern Washington being home to a more conservative rural-based agriculture and ranching, whereas Western Washington is far more densely populated and liberal, with the economy more focused on high tech industries, shipping and manufacturing. The gross state product of Washington is 14th in the nation, just below Massachusetts and above Indiana. The population of the state is also 14th in the Union, and has significant Japanese, Hispanic and Filipino communities. Agriculture forms a large part of the economy, with the majority of the agriculture taking place in the eastern half of Washington. Notable crops are apples (in particular in the Yakima and Wenatchee regions), grapes (the second largest grape producer in the U.S.), and raspberries, which represent over 85% of the total U.S. production. Seattle, the largest city, is home to major corporations such as Microsoft, Boeing and Nintendo of America. Other important cities include Olympia, the capital, Tacoma, a major port city, and Spokane, the third largest city in the Northwest and unofficial capital of Eastern Washington. The Seattle area is a driving force in American culture, from Starbucks to grunge music, and is often rated as one of the top places in America to live. The city itself, the Cascade Range, and the Columbia River Gorge are all major tourist attractions. The political divide in Washington is pronounced, though the state tends to lean left based on the largest population in the western half of the state. While Seattle is considered one of the most liberal cities in the nation, Eastern Washington is politically much closer to Rocky Mountain or even Midwestern states. Washington's 11 electoral votes have gone to the last 4 Democratic Presidential candidates.
West Virginia Arguably the most isolated state east of the Mississippi River, West Virginia has the lowest percentage of the population born in a foreign country. Most West Virginians identify themselves as being from American ancestry, though there are large numbers of people with German and Irish heritage. Health is one area where West Virginia consistently lags behind the rest of the nation, with a relatively high death rate from heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Coal mining is still a major industry in the state, the largest exporter in the nation, although its dominance has waned in recent years. The economy of West Virginia is considered one of the weakest in the Union, with one of the lowest per capita incomes and one of the highest percentages of residents below the poverty level. Traditionally a Democratic stronghold from its long history of unionization, West Virginia has recently given its 5 electoral votes to George W. Bush by relatively wide margins in both 2000 and 2004.
Wisconsin The 2000 Census found that 42.6% of Wisconsinites claim German ancestry, making it one of the most German states in the nation. The largest minority group in Wisconsin is African-American at approximately 5.7% (2004 estimates). Like neighboring Minnesota, Wisconsin has a large community Hmong immigrants, along with a significant Scandinavian heritage. The largest city, Milwaukee, is located on the banks of Lake Michigan and is known for its breweries and manufacturing industry. The capital Madison is a fast growing city and university town noted for its excellent mix of small town feel and cultural prowess. Other major cities include Green Bay and Kenosha. The economy of Wisconsin is largely dependent of agriculture, and in particular, dairy. The state is dubbed the 'Cheese Capital of America' and produces more cheese products than any other state in the Union. Manufacturing is also a critical economic sector, with food processing equipment, transport, and machinery manufacturers leading the way. The world famous Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Company is located Milwaukee. Wisconsin, along with its Great Lake neighbors, is an important swing state in Presidential elections, though the state's 10 electoral votes have gone to the last 5 Presidential candidates, including two narrow wins by both Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004.
Wyoming As the least populated state in the U.S., as well as the 10th largest, Wyoming has the lowest density of the lower 48 states. In fact, Milwaukee Wisconsin has some eighty thousand more people than the entire state of Wyoming. The largest ancestral group in Wyoming is German, making up some 25.9% of the population. The fast-growing Hispanic population accounts for some 6.4% of the population. Because of the arid terrain, farming is not a large economic earner. Instead, ranching is a major sector of the economy. Wyoming is the 2nd most taxed state in the U.S. after Hawaii, though its state education generally gets good marks; it has the largest number of two year postsecondary institutions per capita, as well as the largest number of elementary and secondary school staff per capita. Wyoming is a firmly conservative state, not having voted for a Democratic Presidential candidate since 1964. In 2004, George W. Bush won nearly 69% of the vote in Wyoming, his second largest margin of victory (after Utah).
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