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Survey: Americans have positive view of WV

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Nearly half of the American public, when asked to describe West Virginia, pick terms such as "natural," "small-town," and "friendly," according to a new national public opinion poll conducted by Widmeyer Communications.

The online poll comes on the heels of the new MTV show, "Buckwild," which is to begin airing January 3. The show has come under criticism by influential West Virginians, including U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

"Instead of showcasing the beauty of our state, you preyed on young people, coaxed them into shameful behavior –and now you are profiting from it," Manchin said of the show. "That is just wrong ...This show plays to ugly, inaccurate stereotypes about the people of West Virginia."

While the survey found one-quarter has a favorable opinion of the state, nearly two-thirds have no impression of West Virginia. Further, three-quarters (76 percent) indicate they do not know much (38 percent) or nothing at all (38 percent) about West Virginia. In fact, 8 percent thought the state was part of Virginia and another 16 percent were not sure it was a separate state.

Widmeyer, a Washington-based public affairs communications firm, fielded the Google Consumer national survey during the month of October. Each question was asked among a representative sample of 1,000 adults.

"Our national survey indicates some good value openers for the state. A couple of key takeaways; based on what we learned from this survey, nearly 75 million Americans are likely to visit WV within the next 3 years. Secondly, the small town friendly charm that West Virginia offers is something the state needs to capitalize on. This can be a real magnet to attract people who are looking for getaway vacations that offer recreation, leisure and relaxation," said Scott Widmeyer, CEO of Widmeyer Communications.

Other key findings from the Widmeyer survey:

  • 76 percent named sightseeing and outdoor activities followed by visiting friends and family as the top two reasons for visits to the "Mountain State."
  • Only 27 percent of Americans identified West Virginia as the home of the famed Greenbrier resort, historical Harpers Ferry, proximity to Washington, DC and white water rafting on the Gauley and New rivers.
  • 49 percent said if they were to visit West Virginia it would be to spend time in "cute small towns with great arts and crafts."
  • 17 percent of Americans said they were likely to visit the state for leisure purposes in the next three years. Those living in the South (21 percent) or Northeast (20 percent) were more likely to indicate a visit to WV was in the offing.