Alaska Tops Standard of Living Index

West Virginia at the bottom

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Jessica Lynn Culver / Getty Images

A retired couple fishes in Alaska. The seniors are holding large salmon and wearing cold weather gear.

Residents of Alaska are more satisfied with and optimistic about their standard of living than Americans in any other state, while people in West Virginia are the least satisfied, according to a new poll.

The Gallup survey released Thursday put Alaska in first on a broad measure of satisfaction. Throughout 2013, the pollster asked almost 180,000 adults in all 50 states two questions: how satisfied they are with their standard of living and whether they feel that standard is getting better or worse. Out of a maximum score of 100—achieved only if 100 percent of respondents say they’re happy with their standard and it’s getting better—Alaska came in first at 53, followed closely by the oil-rich land of North Dakota and the sunny state of Hawaii. Residents of West Virginia scored a last-place 22, followed by glum Maine at 31 and gloomy Rhode Island at 32.

Generally states with high levels of economic confidence and job creation found themselves at the top of the list. Alaska, however, is an exception to that rule, what Gallup calls an “unlikely leader.” The pollsters point out that Alaska is one of few states with neither a state income tax nor a sales tax, and that “Alaska has a unique landscape ripe for many of nature’s most exciting outdoor activities, and this may provide a physical environment conducive to a high standard of living for Alaskans.”

It’s also a state politically known for a libertarian streak. “Residents in Alaska,” Gallup said, “may define ‘high standard of living’ differently, partly factoring in the life-enriching opportunities that nature freely provides.”

West Virginia has also found itself stuck in last place in Gallup’s annual well-being index, based on surveys about emotional health, physical health, access to basic necessities and overall “life evaluation.”