Most patriotic states

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July 1, 2019

Most patriotic states

The United States is a beautiful land full of patriotic citizens spread out from the Statue of Liberty in the east to the towering evergreens of the west and all of the amber waves of grain in the middle. But just how patriotic are they, exactly? Are the folks in New York as in love with their country as those in the heartlands of Kansas or the bayous of the south? The U.S. is overflowing with patriotic symbols, whether the Washington Monument or Liberty Bell; but it’s hard to determine from the surface how deeply a particular state bleeds its stars and stripes.

Every year in an effort to take a deeper dive, WalletHub puts together a list of the country’s most patriotic states, ranking them from most to least. The analysis is based on two key metrics—military engagement and civic engagement. The first figure factors in things like military enlistment and veterans per capita, while the second examines voting rates, volunteer rates, AmeriCorps volunteers per capita, jury participation, and civil education requirements. The figures are weighted to determine an overall score with 100 representing the highest level of patriotism. Each state is then ranked by the total score. Often, these results are quite different; only two states have both metrics in the top 10. 

We’ve included critical context about each state’s patriotic history: its involvement in major U.S. wars, tourist hotspots, history as a state, and other cultural factors that may contribute to an increase or decrease in patriotism in that state. The rankings have significantly changed from last year; 2018’s winner, Virginia, didn’t even place in this year’s top ten! Every Independence Day, it’s a good idea to take some time and learn more about the history of this country, while also hopefully securing bragging rights for your home state. 

You may also like: States with the highest rates of military enlistment

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MIchael Vadon // Flickr

#50. New Jersey

- Total score: 21.55
- Military engagement rank: 48
- Civic engagement rank: 45

The third-lowest state for military enlistees and falling low on the civic engagement list as well, New Jersey came in the last place. However, the state was once a beacon of patriotism—it was the site where George Washington fought the British in a series of key battles during the American Revolution and was the third state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

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MarineCorps NewYork // Flickr

#49. New York

- Total score: 21.63
- Military engagement rank: 49
- Civic engagement rank: 44

Nearly half of all U.S. citizens can trace an ancestor to Ellis Island, having arrived on American soil via New York Harbor. Although the state is the home of the Statue of Liberty, today it ranks lowest in the country for veterans per capita. Ironically, the Battle of Long Island was the largest battle of the entire American Revolution. New York City was also the country's first capital.

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Presidio of Monterey // Flickr

#48. California

- Total score: 23.92
- Military engagement rank: 37
- Civic engagement rank: 48

Of all 50 states, only New York and New Jersey have fewer veterans per capita. Yet California boasts the biggest National Guard force in the nation and the state has a slew of military installations from Camp Pendleton to China Lake.

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U.S. Air Force

#47. West Virginia

- Total score: 28.39
- Military engagement rank: 36
- Civic engagement rank: 42

West Virginia is the home to 142,694 veterans. One of those veterans, West Virginia's Private Jessica Lynch, made international news in 2003 when she was captured by Iraqi forces and subsequently rescued by American troops.

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U.S. Air Force

#46. Texas

- Total score: 28.66
- Military engagement rank: 11
- Civic engagement rank: 49

Texas sits second to last on the list for civic engagement with only Hawaii coming in lower, but the Lone Star state is boosted by its high ranking military enlistment. The proud southern state has the second-highest number of active-duty military personnel with 164,234 troops and more than 53,321 in reserve forces as of September 2017. 

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US Coast Guard Academy // Flickr

#45. Connecticut

- Total score: 30.37
- Military engagement rank: 47
- Civic engagement rank: 34

Connecticut revolutionary soldiers would have likely never guessed that more than two centuries later, their colony would be ranked in the bottom 10 states for patriotism. In the 1770s, Connecticut had strong anti-loyalist laws in place even prior to the war and was once nicknamed the “Provision State"due to the large amount of food, weapons, and other goods it supplied to the Continental Army.

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U.S. Air Force

#44. Indiana

- Total score: 30.53
- Military engagement rank: 35
- Civic engagement rank: 40

The home of Vice President Mike Pence comes in with relatively low rankings for both metrics. Calling itself the “crossroads of America,” the state is typically a Republican stronghold, but voted for Barack Obama in 2008.

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U.S. Air Force

#43. New Mexico

- Total score: 30.81
- Military engagement rank: 15
- Civic engagement rank: 47

Although New Mexico as a whole scores near the bottom of the pack on patriotism metrics, the town of Gallup, near Albuquerque, was named the second-most patriotic city in the country by Rand McNally's “Best of the Road" contest. Historically speaking, New Mexico was one of the last to be admitted into the Union, achieving statehood in 1912 to become the 47th state.

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Joe Ross // Flickr

#42. Michigan

- Total score: 31.37
- Military engagement rank: 44
- Civic engagement rank: 35

Michigan ranks a bit higher for civic engagement, but its military listlessness drags it toward the bottom of the list. Although Michigan has historically voted for Democrats, in recent years it has shifted to swing state status.

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Coast Guard News // Flickr

#41. Illinois

- Total score: 31.39
- Military engagement rank: 41
- Civic engagement rank: 37

One of the key players in the Civil War, Illinois supplied more than 250,000 soldiers for the Union Army and launched the political careers of future presidents Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant. The state was historically a swing state, but the election of Bill Clinton in 1992 shifted Illinois to the left. Today the state is considered one of the “Big Three” democratic strongholds alongside California and New York.

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Thomas // Flickr

#40. Pennsylvania

- Total score: 33.25
- Military engagement rank: 45
- Civic engagement rank: 33

The Keystone State lands among the bottom set of states due to poor military enlistment. If historical patriotism was a factor, Pennsylvania would be near the top. The state is home to the Liberty Bell and served as the nation's temporary capital from 1790 to 1800 while federal buildings were being constructed in Washington D.C.

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Kenneth C. Zirkel // Wikicommons

#39. Rhode Island

- Total score: 33.75
- Military engagement rank: 43
- Civic engagement rank: 32

Though ranked near the bottom of the pack by WalletHub,  Rhode Island is another example of an “unpatriotic” state that laid a foundation for America's birth. The Ocean State was the first of the 13 colonies to repudiate its allegiance to Britain. As the Rhode Island Society of the Sons of the American Revolution wrote: “Rhode Island responded to [the war for American Independence] with patriotic fervor, enduring the dangers and deprivations of invasion and occupation at home, while sending soldier[s] to almost every major campaign."

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Public Domain

#38. Hawaii

- Total score: 34.52
- Military engagement rank: 2
- Civic engagement rank: 50

Hawaii in 2017 had 36,620 active-duty military personnel enlisted and 9,402 reserve forces. The state also reported 106,630 veterans in its 2018 census estimates. It's perhaps not surprising the state, which suffered through the bombing of Pearl Harbor, has such a proudly devoted military community. However, the state's ranking suffers due to poor civic engagement.

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Paula R. Lively // Flickr

#37. Ohio

- Total score: 34.61
- Military engagement rank: 34
- Civic engagement rank: 36

Ohio is somewhere in the middle of the patriotism scale: not unpatriotic by any means, but not at the top of the list either. This middle area reflects the voting patterns of the state that is always a strong battleground region in presidential elections. In fact, the Buckeye State boasts the highest percentage of wins for presidential candidates of any state, picking the commander in chief 93%of the time since 1896. 

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Ronnie MacDonald // Wikicommons

#36. Nevada

- Total score: 34.82
- Military engagement rank: 17
- Civic engagement rank: 41

Nevada was home to a primarily Republican voting demographic through most of the second half of the 20th century, but its politics began to shift as the population grew. Today, Nevada is considered a strong swing state.

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Wesley Fryer // Wikimedia Commons

#35. Oklahoma

- Total score: 34.83
- Military engagement rank: 7
- Civic engagement rank: 43

Oklahoma has had a long history of military engagement and continues to poll highly in that area. Oklahoma was the site of the Battle of Honey Springs, which is considered by some to be the “Gettysburg of Indian Territory" during the Civil War.

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#34. Massachusetts

- Total score: 35.3
- Military engagement rank: 50
- Civic engagement rank: 22

Massachusetts has gained since 2018 when it was declared the least patriotic state according to WalletHub’s rankings. The ranking is somewhat ironic since Massachusetts was the site of the Boston Tea Party, the 1773 event that sparked the American Revolution and the nation's original patriots.


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GPA Photo Archive

#33. Kansas

- Total score: 36.54
- Military engagement rank: 18
- Civic engagement rank: 39

Kansas ranks fairly high in military engagement, landing within the top 20, but fares far worse in civic engagement. The Kansas–Nebraska Act which opened the land to settlement in 1854 and served as a precursor to the unrest that would follow in the next decade. The legislation caused acrimony and is often cited as one of the key factors that prompted the Civil War

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U.S. Air Force

#32. South Dakota

- Total score: 36.89
- Military engagement rank: 21
- Civic engagement rank: 38

Falling 20 places from 2018, South Dakota scores in the top half of the list in military engagement but falls in the bottom half for civic engagement. Though it proudly displays the faces of U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt carved into the three-acre stretch of stone at Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota has some ground to make up for future rankings. 

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Georgia National Guard // Flickr

#31. Georgia

- Total score: 37.63
- Military engagement rank: 4
- Civic engagement rank: 46

While Georgia does poorly in terms of citizens being civically engaged, the state is full of veterans and military families who sneak it into the top five for military engagement. The Peach State has a long history of military service, albeit not always for the United States: During the Civil War, Georgia sent nearly 120,000 soldiers to fight in the Confederate Army.

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Public Domain

#30. Iowa

- Total score: 39.1
- Military engagement rank: 39
- Civic engagement rank: 24

Iowa scores around the middle of the pack for civic and military engagement. With its abundance of farmers, Iowa played a large role in supporting World War I efforts when “Food Will Win The War” posters were prominent; it became an act of patriotism to help feed the Allied armies.

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Michele Dorsey Walfred // Flickr

#29. Delaware

- Total score: 40.35
- Military engagement rank: 23
- Civic engagement rank: 31

Delaware, the nation's very first state, has made up some ground after being ranked 41st most patriotic in 2018. Delaware, formerly a largely Swedish and Dutch settlement, declared independence from Great Britain in 1776 and become the first U.S. state 11 years later.

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U.S. Department of Defense

#28. Tennessee

- Total score: 40.58
- Military engagement rank: 28
- Civic engagement rank: 28

During the American Civil War, the state was divided with West Tennesseans loyal to the South and many in the East supportive of the Union. After the state ultimately joined the Confederacy, a segment of East Tennessee pro-Union separatists attempted to create their own state.

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Tequask // Wikicommons

#27. Nebraska

- Total score: 41.42
- Military engagement rank: 26
- Civic engagement rank: 27

Nicknamed the Cornhusker State, Nebraska is full of farmers who played an integral role in the 1890s Populist movement. Omaha was the site of the convention that resulted in the formation of the Populist Party.

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U.S. Air Force

#26. Mississippi

- Total score: 43.23
- Military engagement rank: 14
- Civic engagement rank: 29

Mississippi just fails to crack the top half, but it does have one standout town. Tupelo, also the birthplace of Elvis, is famous for the patriotic Fourth of July festival it hosts every year. The small town has been named an All-America City five times by the National Civic League.

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Max Pixel

#25. Louisiana

- Total score: 43.98
- Military engagement rank: 29
- Civic engagement rank: 19

Home to Fort Polk and the Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana still only has moderate military engagement. The primarily Republican state, which was part of the Confederacy during the Civil War, uses a unique legal system that is based on civil law rather than common law, which is utilized by the other 49 other states. Some scholars argue this is based on French Napoleonic Code, though others dispute this designation.

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U.S. Air National Guard

#24. Arkansas

- Total score: 44.44
- Military engagement rank: 24
- Civic engagement rank: 23

The birthplace of Walmart and former President Bill Clinton, Arkansas has three military bases and more than 213,000 veterans living in the state, landing right in the middle of the group.

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U.S. Air Force

#23. Kentucky

- Total score: 44.83
- Military engagement rank: 27
- Civic engagement rank: 18

Kentucky is the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln and has relatively high military enlistment, but low civic engagement. It is the home of Boonesborough, where frontiersman Daniel Boone faced off with the Shawnee Indians. Kentucky was also the first U.S. state west of the Appalachian Mountains. 

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Maryland GovPics // Wikicommons

#22. Maryland

- Total score: 44.92
- Military engagement rank: 25
- Civic engagement rank: 20

Maryland is another state that has more civically minded citizens than it does military enlistment. The state is the birthplace of Francis Scott Key, the 19th-century patriot who wrote the “Star Spangled Banner.” The song was penned as he watched the “bombs bursting in air” over Maryland's Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, inspiring him to write what would later become the national anthem.

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Public Domain

#21. North Carolina

- Total score: 45.15
- Military engagement rank: 6
- Civic engagement rank: 30

North Carolina was one of the original 13 colonies and was the first colony at the Continental Congress of 1774 to give its delegates the order to vote for independence from Britain. 

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Public Domain

#20. Florida

- Total score: 45.67
- Military engagement rank: 19
- Civic engagement rank: 25

The Sunshine State places decently on the list according to the metrics, but "astronomical” signs of patriotic pride can be seen elsewhere. Florida is home to both Cape Canaveral, where John Glenn launched from to become the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962 and the Kennedy Space Center, where Apollo 11 launched Neil Armstrong as he became the first person to walk on the moon in 1969.

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U.S. Air National Guard

#19. Alabama

- Total score: 47.43
- Military engagement rank: 8
- Civic engagement rank: 26

Alabama gets high marks for its large degree of military participation. The state also has a number of patriotic attractions, including the Karl C. Harrison Museum of George Washington, the United States Army Aviation Museum, the American Village, and its own miniature Statue Of Liberty.

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U.S. Air Force // OMD

#18. Oregon

- Total score: 47.7
- Military engagement rank: 32
- Civic engagement rank: 12

One of the most liberal states in the nation, Oregon performed well in 2019's ranking on both metrics. The state received tens of thousands of pioneers during the mid-19th century, who traveled the 2,000-mile Oregon Trail route from Missouri and other Midwest regions, driven by the hopes of land, gold, and Manifest Destiny.

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U.S. Air Force

#17. Washington

- Total score: 47.82
- Military engagement rank: 16
- Civic engagement rank: 16

Washington state scores well in both military and civic engagement, placing it #17 on the list. The Evergreen State was a key player during World War II, as the Boeing company based in Puget Sound manufactured heavy bombers. Nearby ports also provided naval depots in Seattle, Tacoma, and Bremerton that produced war ships.

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Robert Linsdell // Wikicommons

#16. Arizona

- Total score: 48.97
- Military engagement rank: 13
- Civic engagement rank: 14

Although it's not in the top 10 for patriotic states according to the study, Arizona has plenty of signs of national pride, one of which is a public charter school in Phoenix with an entire curriculum devoted to patriotism. The Benchmark School requires all students to learn patriotic and civic-minded lessons that include discussing the Pledge of Allegiance, collecting supplies for troops, writing essays honoring veterans, and taking field trips to war memorials.

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Public Domain

#15. Colorado

- Total score: 49
- Military engagement rank: 12
- Civic engagement rank: 15

Colorado excels in military and civic engagement. The lush, green state features some of the most stunning natural beauty in the country—so much so that in 1893, Katharine Lee Bates wrote “America the Beautiful” after an inspirational climb up the famous Pikes Peak.

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Public Domain

#14. Virginia

- Total score: 52.36
- Military engagement rank: 5
- Civic engagement rank: 17

Virginia was the most patriotic state in the country in 2018 according to the WalletHub assessment, though this year it fell 13 places. Known as the “birthplace of a nation,” the state is home to Jamestown, the New World's first permanent English settlement. Today, Virginia is also home base for the U.S. Navy's Atlantic Fleet. 

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Arlington National Cemetery // Flickr

#13. Maine

- Total score: 52.37
- Military engagement rank: 31
- Civic engagement rank: 10

Although its military engagement falls on the lower half of the list, the fact that Maine sneaks into the top 10 in the whole country for its exceptional civic involvement gives it lucky #13 in the overall ranking. In addition to high volunteerism rates, Maine had the nation's highest voter turnout in the 2016 Presidential Election.

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U.S. Air Force

#12. Montana

- Total score: 53.98
- Military engagement rank: 20
- Civic engagement rank: 11

Considered one of the last American frontiers, Montana rose to prominence 1852 when gold was first discovered near Garrison. Ten years later, there were additional discoveries of silver, copper, lead, and coal, driving thousands of miners to the region and ultimately statehood in 1889.

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U.S. Department of Defense

#11. North Dakota

- Total score: 54.02
- Military engagement rank: 33
- Civic engagement rank: 9

Although North Dakota is midway down the list in military engagement, there are parts of the state that excel in patriotism. In fact, the town of Mandan won an online vote in 2013 when Rand McNally named it the "Most Patriotic City" in the whole country.

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Ben Franske // Wikicommons

#10. Minnesota

- Total score: 56.84
- Military engagement rank: 46
- Civic engagement rank: 3

Minnesota has fantastic civic engagement rates, but its dramatically low military enlistment figure brings its overall ranking down quite a bit. During the Civil War, however, the state supplied about 22,000 soldiers to the Union, and the1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry was key during the Battle of Gettysburg. 

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Public Domain

#9. Missouri

- Total score: 56.9
- Military engagement rank: 22
- Civic engagement rank: 8

Patriotism is certainly not absent in Missouri. In 2017, the College of the Ozarks announced a mandatory military science course that was aimed at encouraging patriotism among its students. “I think more colleges and universities need to make it their business to be more intentional about teaching about the country, about the military,” the college president said at the time.

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North Charleston // Flickr

#8. South Carolina

- Total score: 57.68
- Military engagement rank: 3
- Civic engagement rank: 13

South Carolina was one of the original 13 colonies and has the third-highest military participation in the nation. The state was the site of numerous Revolutionary War battles, including the infamous two-month Siege of Charleston in 1780.

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Public Affairs Office Fort Wainwright // Flickr

#7. Alaska

- Total score: 58.52
- Military engagement rank: 1
- Civic engagement rank: 21

Alaska displays only moderate civic engagement but has the highest military engagement in the entire country. Dubbed “The Last Frontier,” Alaska didn't achieve statehood until after World War II when oil was discovered on the Kenai Peninsula. This prompted President Dwight D. Eisenhower to sign the Alaska Statehood Act in 1958.

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Milwaukee VA Medical Center // Flickr

#6. Wisconsin

- Total score: 59.12
- Military engagement rank: 42
- Civic engagement rank: 4

During the Civil War, Wisconsin offered more than 90,000 soldiers to the Union cause. But as of 2017, the state had only 976 active-duty military personnel enlisted. That low figure keeps Wisconsin in the middle of the pack of the patriotism rankings.

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U.S. Air Force

#5. Idaho

- Total score: 61.62
- Military engagement rank: 9
- Civic engagement rank: 7

Last year, Idaho residents had cause for extra patriotic pride when a video from the town of Hayden went viral, showing a schoolboy lying down to protect the American flag from touching the ground as classmates took it down and tried to fold it. Certainly behavior worthy of the #5 state in 2019 and 2018.

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U.S. Navy

#4. Utah

- Total score: 62.12
- Military engagement rank: 38
- Civic engagement rank: 2

Utah does enormously well in terms of civic engagement, coming in second place only after Vermont; its low military enlistment figures don’t do much to bring down its overall ranking. Part of Utah's high civic participation could be attributed to the large presence of Mormons in the state, who settled the area in 1847 and are inclined to volunteerism and community involvement.

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dvs // Flickr

#3. Vermont

- Total score: 62.25
- Military engagement rank: 40
- Civic engagement rank: 1

Number one in the country for civic engagement, Vermont is a state full of volunteers, voters, and community-minded citizens. While military involvement is not high today, Vermont was a key player in the Revolutionary War and the site of the Battle of Hubbardton. The Battle of Bennington is also commonly attributed to Vermont, although it occurred on disputed territory that is now Walloomsac, N.Y.

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U.S. Air Force

#2. Wyoming

- Total score: 62.67
- Military engagement rank: 10
- Civic engagement rank: 6

Wyoming is the only state on the list besides Idaho to land in the top 10 for both patriotic metrics. Initially a fur-trapping state, Wyoming drew miners in the 1860s for its gold, coal, and other precious metals, though it never received the same degree of population boom as Colorado and Montana. The frontier territory was granted statehood in 1890 after the railroad was established. 

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Captain-tucker // Wikimedia Commons

#1. New Hampshire

- Total score: 63.08
- Military engagement rank: 30
- Civic engagement rank: 5

Moving up twelve places from unlucky number 13 is this year’s winner, New Hampshire! New Hampshire residents have always oozed patriotic pride for being the site of Paul Revere's first, lesser known ride in December of 1774 when he warned locals that the British were coming for weapons. The Sons of Liberty were able to hide cannon and gunpowder, preventing the British from taking control of the ammunition just before the American Revolution began.

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