By WALLACE BAINE
Since the Academy Awards are upon us, let us interpret a new poll about the most liked and disliked states in the U.S. through the prism of Sally Field’s famously gushy Oscar acceptance speech 25 years ago:
America, you hate us here in California – you really hate us.
Indeed, a new poll by Public Policy Polling ranks the most liked states in the country, and California comes in at number 50. Dead last. By a comfortable margin.
Given that one in 10 Americans is a Californian – and assuming the vast majority of those folks don’t actively detest the state in which they live – you might think that that particular thumb on the scales would make a difference to our benefit.
Nope. The rancor is so widespread that it even wipes out our numbers advantage.
While we’ve been living our groovilicious Left Coast lives – surfing, rock climbing, doing nude yoga and tantric sex to Navajo flute music in a yurt overlooking the sea – the rest of the country has been silently grinding its teeth, hoping that they might live to see the day California finally slides off into the ocean.
Now I know how Gwyneth Paltrow feels.
Hawaii was the most popular state – well, what did you expect? Ohio? – and it seems that Americans look favorably upon, or at least are indifferent to, most states. Only five were disliked more than they were liked, with 44 percent of Americans giving the thumbs down to the Golden State. Ouch.
Is it mere envy? Most Californians I’ve heard from seemed to think so, and – well, did we mention that this week, it was 70 degrees in February?
But that seems too easy. The main question you have to wrestle with when you find out someone really dislikes you is this: Is that my problem or yours? It’s awfully tempting to chalk it all up to envy and get back to your tantric sex, but nothing’s that simple, is it?
Maybe we should make some concessions, you know, to show we’re decent people. We could give Disneyland to Wisconsin – wonder if they’d settle for Knott’s Berry Farm? We could make the Beach Boys write a song about Arkansas girls. Maybe, a diamond lane for all cars with out-of-state plates.
But before we go to the trouble, let’s unpack this poll a bit.
Demographically speaking, it seems that women like California quite a bit more than men do. And, in racial terms, Latinos and African-Americans like us more than they hate us. But with white folks, more than half dislike California, while less than a quarter look favorably upon us.
And then there’s the political angle. Of those who identified themselves as Democrats, California scored quite well, 46 to 20 favorables over unfavorables. But with Republicans, those numbers wildly swing the other way, 12 to 68, and with political independents, the numbers don’t look so good either. In the words of the poll’s written conclusion, Republicans “absolutely hate California.”
Male. White. Conservative. Oh, so this is a culture-war thing after all.
It should surprise exactly no one that whenever the Rush Limbaugh demographic thinks of California, it sees Pelosi, Boxer, gay pride parades and Hollywood limousine liberals. And who cares if Ted Nugent hates us? Isn’t that a good thing?
But even when all the other demos are combined with the angry white guys, the diluting effect is minimal. California still comes out at the bottom.
Let’s point out here that California is a fat target. If you lumped together all those states in the Deep South – “South Caro-bama Mississiana” – I’m guessing that new mega-state would provide liberals that nice tidy package of contempt that California provides for conservatives, and might even sink to the bottom of the list.
But, we’re reasonable people. We’re always up for a little soul-searching. Deepak Chopra is one of us. Is there something we can do to save this marriage?
First off, it must be acknowledged that our insane state government is doing us no favors here. The madness of Sacramento is often the first thing mentioned in any critique of California, and though interpretations can wildly vary about the cause and/or solution of it all, that is a punch that lands.
Also, if we’re being honest here, it must be said that Californians have always had issues with smugness. Those who moved here from other states seem to waste no opportunity to tell anyone who’ll listen how relieved they are to have made it to the Promised Land. And those born and/or raised here tend to think of the rest of the country as one endless Kentucky Fried Chicken drive-through. I mean, if you think about it, “I wish they all could be California girls” is a pretty obnoxious thing to say.
Still, California is pretty darn fine place to live and work. And most of us pay a pretty high price for living here, doing without in other areas of our lives. It’s far from perfect, but on some days – like 70-degree days in February – it comes awfully close. We’ve made a deliberate choice to live here, and most of us have made the necessary sacrifices to do so.
If you want to believe the cheap stereotypes and haters’ generalizations, then that’s not my problem. That’s yours.