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Which state f*cking loves science the most?

Phil Edwards is a senior producer for the Vox video team.

It's tough to figure out which US states love science the most. But it's a little bit easier to figure out which states f*cking love science the most.

Since starting in March 2012, the site "I F*cking Love Science" (IFLS) has turned into a global phenomenon. Led by Elise Andrew, the site's content ranges from recaps of new scientific studies to meme-ish, science-flavored jokes. Counting the site's readers may not be a good proxy for actual scientific knowledge, but it's a decent way to measure enthusiasm for science-flavored pop culture.

And right now, content from IFLS's Facebook page fills the feeds of almost 20 million people — with 7.6 million of them in the US. To put that in perspective, more Facebook users like IFLS than like American Idol. If you entered a room with 100 random American Facebook users, four of them would be IFLS fans.

A sample of popular Facebook pages in the U.S.

A sample of popular Facebook pages.

So which states f*cking love science the most? Because raw numbers would favor the most populous states (California has a mind-blowing 1,080,000 IFLS fans), we instead calculated IFLS fans as a percentage of each state's total Facebook population. You can find the data here.

Colorado f*cking loves science the most. See where your state ranks.

Which state f*cking loves science the most?

In Colorado, 6.88 percent of all Facebook users like IFLS, the most of any state.

The top IFLS states

The top 10 IFLS states.

Western states dominated the top 10, along with Vermont.

By contrast, the bottom 10 IFLS states skew toward the southern and central United States. Mississippi was the least enthusiastic about IFLS, with less than one-third of the enthusiasm of Colorado. New Jersey is another notable east coast outlier.

The bottom IFLS states

The bottom 10 IFLS states.

If your state wasn't on the graph, you can see all the rankings here.

There's a significant gap between the biggest IFLS states and the smallest. Of course, there are a number of possible reasons for the gap, including:

  • Facebook users in certain regions might be more or less likely to follow pages
  • Facebook users in certain regions might be more or less educated, encouraging them to like more or fewer educational pages
  • People in certain regions might be more or less likely to use Facebook, skewing the sample of the general population

However, comparing the IFLS data with numbers for History Channel fans suggests there may be varying science enthusiasm by state.

History draws a different national audience. And West Virginia loves history the most.

A map of History Channel fans on Facebook.

A map of History Channel fans on Facebook.

The History Channel has far fewer fans on Facebook than IFLS, topping out in the United States with 2.2 million followers. That means that IFLS beats the History Channel in every state, including ones where IFLS isn't particularly popular.

That all said, the map of the History Channel's Facebook popularity looks very different from our IFLS map. A graph further highlights the disparity:

Top and bottom History Channel states

A graph of History Channel fans on Facebook.

The data suggests that different states have genuinely different interests (at least when it comes to their edutainment). West Virginia, which had the 13th lowest percentage of IFLS fans, was the most passionate about history. Meanwhile, Colorado, the top state for IFLS, had the 12th lowest percentage of History Channel fans. California ranked 10th for IFLS fans; for History channel fans, it was 46th.

Just as IFLS isn't a proxy for scientific education or interest, the History Channel's Facebook fanbase isn't necessarily a proxy for historical knowledge. However, it does reflect an enthusiastic interest in history-flavored entertainment. Generally, scientifically inclined states were less enthusiastic about history, and vice versa. Alaska was an exception, with high ranks on both Facebook pages.

Does this prove that different states might have different approaches toward science and history? Possibly. If nothing else, it adds some context to the next science — or history — meme you see on Facebook.

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