More Dogs on Main
March 2, 2012
Apparently they just don’t like us. That’s the conclusion of a poll released last week by "Public Policy Polling." The company took an automated telephone poll of 1,200 Americans over a three-month period sampling the favorable and unfavorable opinions of all 50 states. The results showed that Americans think Hawaii is great, as you might expect from a poll taken in winter, followed by Colorado, Tennessee, South Dakota and Virginia to make the top five.
On the other end of the scale, the states with the highest negative opinion were California at rock bottom, followed by Illinois, New Jersey, Mississippi, and Utah. So there you have it: Among Americans who are willing to take an automated telephone poll during their dinner, 24 percent had a favorable opinion of Utah and 27 percent had a negative opinion, for a 3-point tilt to the negative (and 49 percent had never heard of the place). New Jersey had a 7-point negative tilt, but that’s probably because "Jersey Shore" is in reruns. California’s negative tilt was 17 points.
The poll did not get into the basis for the positive or negative opinions, nor indicate which states the 1,200 participants were from. Given the population of California, it’s likely that they were a large portion of the poll, and, if they had just spent two hours in traffic on a neglected freeway system that is falling apart, they may not have been happy people. It’s unlikely that there were very many people from Utah in the sample.
Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho all had positive rankings. There are differences among the mountain states. Colorado has "medical" marijuana outlets on every corner; there are almost no people in Wyoming; Idaho has famous potatoes; Montana is beautiful. But the similarities are pretty strong. The politics in the mountain states are all about as red as they can get; there’s no shortage of great scenery; all have hard winters and perfect summers.
So why is Colorado the second-most favorably ranked state and Utah the fourth-most negatively ranked? It’s kind of hard to put a finger on it. Maybe if we just had more public art. Or fewer crazed polygamists marrying 12 year olds while preparing for the apocalypse. You’ve got to be normal to be liked.
Which brings us to Mitt Romney. The Mittmeister won big in Arizona and squeaked by in Michigan, where he commented a couple of times that he loves Michigan because the "trees are the right height." Maybe that’s what’s wrong with Utah our trees are of variable and inconsistent height, and there aren’t a lot of them.
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Earlier in the week, Mitt attended the Daytona 500, where he was asked if he followed NASCAR. Romney said, "Not as closely as some of the most ardent fans. But I have some great friends that are NASCAR team owners." Well, put down the Mountain Dew, spit out your chew, roll up those camo sleeves and show us your tattoos.
Awkward as that response sounds, it’s better than claiming to be a hunter because he once shot at a problem varmint at his summer house on the lake. It’s better than his other inexplicable story that he remembered attending a golden-jubilee celebration for the auto industry in Detroit that was held before he was born. The whole thing could have been avoided by not forcing himself to press the flesh in the air-conditioned sky boxes of the NASCAR owners and pretending to be the guy who would come over on Saturday to help pull the transmission out of your pickup.
The comparisons to Thurston Howell III seem to fit. His eccentricities (or as some have described it his "Mitt-ness") are odd but harmless. But if ever there were a candidate who needed to stick to policy discussions and steer clear of the NASCAR tailgate party conversation, it’s Romney.
Santorum scares the hell of out me. He’s running for Ayatollah or something. His religious views stand out even among practicing Catholics. He seems all too willing to try to impose his beliefs on everybody rather than take the more traditional (and constitutional) American view of a society that has room for everybody’s beliefs. Santorum isn’t out of the race. As the primaries move into the South, he will likely do quite well, along with Gingrich and Ron Paul, who are still in it.
In the end, it would be good for the country if Romney got the nomination. That could lead to a rational and intelligent policy debate between Obama and Romney on the issues that really need to be dealt with (excluding the proper height of trees). If Santorum gets the nomination, the November election discussion is likely to be about birth control, which is not even on the list of pressing problems.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column for 25 years.