The following article was initially published on Feb. 24, 2019 via the Des Moines Register.
There’s no place like home? Iowans certainly believe it.
More than three-fourths — 77 percent — of Iowans say they would prefer to live in Iowa if they could choose to live here or in some other state, according to a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll.
That number is up 5 percentage points from when the Iowa Poll last asked the question in July 2017. It’s also the highest number in the five times the poll has asked the question since 1978, more than 40 years ago.
“Iowa’s home,” said Mary Leto, a Des Moines native and poll respondent.
Leto, 68, has been in the state all her life, and her family has lived here for generations: Her grandfather owned a Des Moines pharmacy, and her family still lives nearby.
Iowa has fewer family farms and more suburban development than when she was growing up, Leto said, and she has problems with the state government. But that doesn’t mean she plans on leaving.
“I’ve traveled, but I always come back,” she said. “I think Iowa’s beautiful, and it’s moved ahead in a positive direction in a lot of ways.”
Certain groups like Iowa even more than the general population: At least 85 percent of Republicans, Catholics and people aged 65 and older want to stay in Iowa. People in rural areas prefer staying in the Hawkeye state at a higher rate than any other group, at 87 percent.
Majorities of all ages prefer to live in Iowa, but the proportion increases with age. Among those under 35, 72 percent say say that they want to stay in Iowa; nearly a quarter (24 percent) say they would prefer another state.
The poll of 803 Iowa adults was conducted Feb. 10-13 by Selzer & Co. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
In 2017, about 2,000 more Iowans migrated from Iowa to other states compared to those who left other states to come to Iowa. Iowa’s largest losses came to larger states: Texas, California, New York and Michigan.
Respondent feels supported in small town
Small-town Iowa has its own appeal — everyone knows you and cares about you, said Jeff Orvis, a poll respondent who lives in Belle Plaine. His sister moved to Florida, but he likes having the change of seasons and the convenience of having his groceries, bank and church all in walking distance, he said, as well as the support of lots of friends.
Orvis, 65, grew up in the Quad Cities area and lived in several small Iowa towns before retiring. When he was laid off from the Independence Globe and Journal, the local newspaper, another publication hired him, and Independence residents went out of their way to make sure he was OK.
“People would recognize me at a sports game and come up with 20 dollars and say, ‘I know it’s rough, but I support what you’re doing. Here’s my subscription,’” he said. “It’s not that people in other places aren’t nice, but in small towns, there’s more of a sense of helping the people around you, supporting each other.”
Some people see reasons to leave
But there are reasons why people want to leave Iowa. Poll respondent Parker Aurand, an 18-year-old high school senior in Newton, is planning to move to Rochester, Minnesota, after he graduates — and plans to stay outside the state for college and a job.
“I’m really into video production,” he said. “Iowa is not exactly the best place for that.”
Aurand said he’d like to live in a big city like New York City or Minneapolis — somewhere larger than Des Moines, the biggest city in the state.
Would he ever move back to Iowa?
“Maybe when I’m 70,” Aurand said.
Other respondents said they would want to move away because of problems they perceive in Iowa. Selena Dameron, a 21-year-old Des Moines resident, said violence is on the rise in Iowa, and there are fewer opportunities for young people.
(The state actually has lower crime rates compared to most surrounding states: Iowa had 293.4 crimes per 100,000 residents in 2017, according to FBI statistics. Minnesota is the only nearby state with a lower crime rate at 238.3 crimes per 100,000 residents.)
Dameron, a poll respondent, also said she wants to help homeless people and children in foster care — and she does not think Iowa gives enough resources to help people with problems.
“For me to achieve my dreams and goals, I would need to leave Iowa,” she said.
But even though she’d prefer to live somewhere other than Iowa, she wants to work to make Iowa better while she’s here.
“I just feel like there’s a lot more that can be done than is being done,” Dameron said. “We have a lot of people, and a lot of people to do good things. I think it’s just a matter of making sure we’re doing as much as we can, as a state, to make things as good for the people around us as possible.”
About this poll
The Iowa Poll, conducted February 10-13 for The Des Moines Register and Mediacom by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, is based on telephone interviews with 803 Iowans ages 18 or older. Interviewers with Quantel Research contacted households with randomly selected landline and cell phone numbers supplied by Survey Sampling International. Interviews were administered in English. Responses were adjusted by age, sex, and congressional district to reflect the general population based on recent census data.
Questions based on the sample of 803 Iowa adults have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. This means that if this survey were repeated using the same questions and the same methodology, 19 times out of 20, the findings would not vary from the true population value by more than plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Results based on smaller samples of respondents — such as by gender or age — have a larger margin of error.
Republishing the copyright Iowa Poll without credit to The Des Moines Register and Mediacom is prohibited.