Emerson College Polling and the Middle West Review are excited to share the findings from the largest-ever study on Midwestern boundaries and identity. The study surveyed 22 states, including those that are traditionally considered to be the Midwest, but also surveyed its surrounding states including Arkansas, West Virginia, Colorado, Oklahoma, among others. Over 11,000 responses were collected across 22 states. 

This study finds a majority of residents in Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Illinois, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, South Dakota, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Wyoming consider themselves to “live in the Midwest.” Similarly, the majority of people in the same states consider themselves to be “Midwesterners, ” though at a lesser intensity.  

“These intriguing results underscore the strength of Midwestern identity, despite what some have claimed, and further justify the efforts being made to study the Midwest and its history,” said Jon Lauck, the editor of Middle West Review and the author of the new book The Good Country: A History of the American Midwest (University of Oklahoma Press, 2022).

Iowa and Minnesota residents have the strongest sense of Midwestern identity, with 97% of respondents in each state considering themselves to live in the Midwest. Interestingly, Oklahomans also identify with the Midwest. The survey found that 66% of Oklahomans identify as Midwesterners, undermining the idea of a great plains identity.  

Those who identify themselves as Midwesterners are slightly lower than those who consider themselves to live in the Midwest. For example, 90% of Iowans consider themselves to be Midwesterners compared to 97% who say they live in the Midwest. 

The Midwest extends farther west than its conventional boundaries. “It is traditional to use the 100th meridian as a dividing line between the agrarian Midwest and the high plains,” Lauck noted. “But this data indicates that the Midwest extends farther west toward the Rockies and that few people identify as plainsmen. More than 40% of Coloradoans, mostly on the Eastern slope and closer to the Midwest, consider themselves Midwestern. Over half of Wyomingites do.”

About the Middle West Review: Middle West Review is the only scholarly print publication dedicated exclusively to the study of the Midwest as a region. It provides a forum for scholars and non-scholars alike to explore the meaning of Midwestern identity, history, geography, society, culture, and politics.

Overall, the mission of the Middle West Review is to join with like-minded associations, historical societies, writers, and scholars to help revitalize the study of the American Midwest. The inaugural issue of the journal was published in the fall of 2014 and since 2019 Middle West Review has made the University of South Dakota its home. The journal is published by the University of Nebraska Press. Subscription information and other details can be found at the University of Nebraska Press website. The journal is available electronically through Project MUSE.

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For more information about the study or to schedule interviews, contact Jon Lauck at Jon.Lauck@usd.edu 

The complete results of the survey will be available at the Middle West Review website www.https://www.usd.edu/Research-and-Faculty/Middle-West-Review 

Survey Methodology

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.

This survey was conducted by Emerson College Polling, and questions included in this release are all sponsored by the Middle West Review. All questions asked in this survey with exact wording, along with full results and cross tabulations can be found here.