Nate Silver Thinks Pennsylvania Is in the Midwest

The FiveThirtyEight stats wonk tweets that he believes Pennsylvania is a Midwestern state — and doesn’t even offer any data to back it up!

Political and baseball data journalist Nate Silver recently left the New York Times to launch his FiveThirtyEight brand as a standalone site owned by ESPN. Here’s the site’s latest:

Bah. This is the kind of nonsense I’d expect from Grantland, not FiveThirtyEight!




The article Silver links to is interesting: Reporter Walt Hickey asked self-identified Midwesterners which states were in the Midwest. Hickey also says this is "a somewhat regular argument I get in", which means he is cordially invited to my next party.

Silver isn't alone, though only about 10 percent of Midwesterners say Pennsylvania is in the Midwest. Hickey believes it, too, writing:

I’m from New York, and I generally consider anything west of Philadelphia the Midwest.

West of Philadelphia? So, Upper Darby?

After what I'm assuming is constant internet chatter, there is now a FiveThirtyEight "consensus" on the issue.

That's not bad, I guess, but I think the stereotypes are different: Pennsylvania is derisively called "Pennsyltucky" for a reason — it's more southern. Pennsylvanians are viewed more as yokels, for better or worse. (I guess it's worse. Bah.)

I could actually see Silver defending this with data: Maybe Pennsylvanians outside of the Philly area — or west of the Phillies/Pirates split — have similar demographics or voting patterns and my stereotype is completely untrue. But he just tweets that he thinks Pennsylvania is in the Midwest! That's the kind of belief one needs to back up with data.

[FiveThirtyEight]

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  • Kara

    Having recently moved from PA to the midwest, I completely disagree with his argument! No similarities at all! (But I was from Philly suburbs)

  • Sammy Young

    I realized that the Midwest started west of Harrisburg over 30 years ago when I went to college in Pittsburgh. One critical data point to support this is that the soda/pop divide lies in west central PA (see http://www.popvssoda.com ) and pop is a Midwestern (not Southern) term for soft drinks.

  • Phil

    As a transplant to Philly from Centre County, I’d have to say that, though most State College/Penn State residents are Pirates/Steelers fans, the true dividing line is “pop” vs. “soda,” (as Sammy says), which is WEST of Centre County, for sure!

    • Phil

      by which I mean that Centre Countians say “soda.” My linguistics professor from college would back this up.