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Poll reveals residents favorite things about West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A certain longtime politician often insisted West Virginians believe in four things: God Almighty, Sears Roebuck, Carter's Little Liver Pills and Robert C. Byrd.

Add to that list Jerry West, "Take Me Home, Country Roads," pepperoni rolls and Joe Manchin.

Results of the most recent West Virginia Poll show state residents still idolize the former Los Angeles Lakers superstar, love John Denver's 1971 worldwide hit, salivate over pepperoni rolls and believe Manchin was the best governor in recent memory.

The West Virginia Poll is a non-partisan study conducted for the Daily Mail by R.L. Repass and Partners. This most recent edition was conducted from June 7-13, sampling 401 voting-age West Virginia residents. It has a 4.9 percent margin of error.

Poll respondents were asked several questions about West Virginia culture in honor of the state's 150th birthday.

Twenty-four percent of residents surveyed said Sen. Joe Manchin was the best state governor of their lifetime, although 20 percent of respondents picked former Gov. Jay Rockefeller, now a U.S. senator who will retire when his term ends next year.

Fifteen percent said former Republican Gov. Arch Moore was the best of their lifetime.

When it came to athletes, the top pick was head and shoulders above the rest, in more ways than one.   

Respondents picked Jerry West, also known as Mr. Clutch, as the top West Virginia athlete of the last 50 years, with 41 percent of those surveyed choosing him.

West stands 6 feet 2 inches tall.

Next on the list was Olympic gold medal gymnast Mary Lou Retton, who was selected by 21 percent of respondents and is only 4 feet 8 inches tall.  

Ten percent picked Marshall University standout and National Football League roustabout Randy Moss.

An overwhelming majority of poll respondents apparently think state officials have it all wrong in designating officials state songs.  

The survey showed 66 percent of respondents would select "Take Me Home, Country Roads."

West Virginia's existing state songs received only a fraction of that support: 20 percent of respondents picked "The West Virginia Hills," 10 percent chose "West Virginia My Home Sweet Home" and just 3 percent named "This is My West Virginia."

While Denver's song about our "Mountain Mama" certainly is popular - it's been recorded by everyone from Ray Charles to Hawaiian ukulele player Israel Kamakawiwo'ole and Dutch electronic pop group the Hermes House Band - it's also a bit inaccurate.

The Shenandoah River runs through only a small section of the Eastern Panhandle, and the Blue Ridge Mountains are mostly in Virginia.

But that doesn't matter. Once West Virginians have adopted something as our own - from coonskin caps to former Alderson inmate Martha Stewart - we take full ownership.

Consider the pepperoni roll.

Italian immigrant Giuseppe Argiro invented the treat as a quick lunch for coal miners in the 1920s.

Now almost a century later, the humble snack recently represented West Virginia in a contest of state foods.

The pepperoni roll received more than 53,000 votes, handily defeating culinary contenders like the Philadelphia Cheese Steak and the Boston Cream Pie to become the nationwide winner.

Nineteen percent of West Virginia Poll respondents said they would pick the pepperoni roll as the state food, while 17 percent opted for pinto beans and cornbread.

Ramps were selected by a robust 15 percent, and hot dogs with chili and slaw were preferred by 11 percent.

Six percent of residents said "brook trout" should be the official state food . . . which would make Salvelinus fontinalis both the official state fish and the official state dish.

At least no one suggested eating a black bear or a cardinal.

Poll results show many West Virginians have traveled widely in the state, with 83 percent having visited the state Capitol building in Charleston, 77 percent making a trip to the New River Gorge and 69 percent stopping by Hawks Nest State Park

About half of respondents had visited Snowshoe Mountain, The Greenbrier and Harper's Ferry, but only 35 percent had seen Blennerhasset Island.

All that travel has apparently given residents a grasp of state history.

When asked which state or territory West Virginia broke away from, an overwhelming 94 percent hit the correct answer, Virginia.

Unfortunately, 2 percent said Pennsylvania and 1 percent of respondents believe West Virginia seceded from Ohio.

But keep this in mind before you blame those poor, overworked West Virginia History teachers: 27 percent of poll respondents were not born in the Mountain State. We'll blame them.

But that still would have most of our adopted sons and daughters knowing one fundamental fact. The better Virginia went West.

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or Follow him at

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