If you were to look to the masses to see what stereotypes persist about different states, analyzing the auto-completes that come up in google searches is certainly a creative way to start.
The blog No Upside mapped the auto-completes for each state, with some amusing conclusions. Renee DiResta, the creator of the map, writes:
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.
As some commenters on her site pointed out, the results may be skewed by the time of year (would hot always come up for Texas?), but overall it is a fun snapshot of the qualitative perceptions google searchers have of other states.
For example, my state, Illinois, is quite accurate; it is perceived as corrupt, flat, broke, and humid. California is liberal, broke, anti-gun, and expensive.
Sometimes the results tell a different story. For example, regarding Alabama: racist, good, good at football, and obese.
Why would search terms for various states such as “obese” or “racist” happen with such frequency?
Many of these stereotypes, sometimes exaggerated or worse, and certainly emphasized, by the media, are having enough of an impact to show up in DiResta’s analysis.
Take it is a snapshot, then, not only of how we perceive each other, but also as a reminder of the power of the narratives put forth in our culture and media.