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Sunday Late Night: Let’s Play Geographic Stereotypes

Renee DiResta's State Stereotypes Map, click for interactive version.

Renee DiResta did a project at her blog No Upside so simple and beautiful it is amazing no one thought of it before. It’s the kind of effort that when you see it, you think, well — of course!

In the months before a US Presidential election, the quality of political discourse hits new lows. Blue State/Red State tropes dominate the news cycle as the media gins up outrage over perceived injustices in the culture wars. It’s all about our differences. So I started wondering, how do Americans really think about “those people” in other states? What are the most common stereotypes? For each of the fifty states and DC, I asked Google: “Why is [State] so ” and let it autocomplete. It seemed like an ideal question to get at popular assumptions, since “Why is [State] so X?” presupposes that X is true.

Now, Internetians everywhere are starting to drill down to city level, since we all know what the stereotypes are for our state. Why don’t you Google your city and state, and please put the results in comments! Then we can compare, and you can also give us the benefit of your own experience living there: how true are these stereotypes?

I’ll go first. On Renee’s map (or if I enter “Why is Oregon so”) the first four autocomplete results are:

… so liberal
… so weird
… so rainy
… so boring?

“Boring” is the most common result. It shows up for eighteen states, apparently, so we can safely ignore that one as being generated by truly bored teens pissed that there isn’t ever going to be a fourth volume of the Hunger Games (Hey, young adult readers! Despite your being catered to by most publishers eager for a fourth book payout, “trilogy” actually implies three books.)

Drilling down, here are the Portland results. Why is Portland….

… so weird
… so cool
… so white
… so liberal
… so hipster?

Try it! Please post your results in comments, and let us all know what you think of the results. I don’t find Oregon boring, but Portland is pretty weird, cool, white, liberal, and hipster. I think Google Autocomplete got that one just about right. Tell us about your state and town!

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