If this were USA Today, the headline might read, "We hate New Jersey."
Variety's spin might be: "They Say 'Go Away, NJ.'"
And, of course, the Fox News take: "Myth of global warming traced to Garden State."
Almost any way you slice 'em, the latest poll numbers show New Jersey's place in America's affections is just slightly higher than Newt Gingrich's.
In surveys by Public Policy Polling, New Jersey was one of only five states with a negative image among American votes. The Raleigh, N.C., firm found only one-quarter of respondents have a "favorable" view of New Jersey, compared to 32 percent who hold an "unfavorable" opinion.
That put it far behind first-place Hawaii, whose positive-negative split was 54-10. But it is considerably better than last-place California, which a startlingly 44 percent disliked. The survey can be read here.
This being the media, the rush is on to assign blame.
In a CBS New York poll that gives respondents three choices, half blame the televised debacle "Jersey Shore," while the rest are split between "that funky smell" and "they're just jealous." That story can be seen here.
Yes, we do have a Situation here. Staten Islanders on TV and tank farms along the Turnpike can be considered turn-offs. And it's been a long time since New Jersey had a leader more known for promoting the state Tom Kean applying his patrician tones to "New Jersey and you, perfect together" than himself.
But a closer look at those numbers offers this suggestion: chill.
For one thing, a plurality of respondents, 42 percent, said they are "unsure" about New Jersey. Other states rolled up similarly vague rankings. Some 60 percent of those polled responded blankly to the name "Nebraska."
Of course, it's hard to have an opinion about Nebraska. But "Rhode Island" conjured up no response from 58 percent, Indiana 57 percent, Wyoming 55 percent and so on. Even in a state labelled as among the best liked by the poll, South Dakota, 49 percent showed no emotion whatsoever toward it.
Only a few states elicited strong reactions, and some of those were unpredictable. Women gave New York high marks, 43 favorable to 19 percent unfavorable. But men were narrowly against the Empire State, with 39 percent against it compared to 36 percent for it.
Of our other neighbors, Pennsylvania did well with a pro-con rating of 40-11, while Delaware split 32-16 percent.
The poll covered 3,300 people in four surveys between October and this month. Public Policy Polling identified them as voters, but in some ways, they were not entirely representative of the population.
Only about 28 percent identified themselves as politically moderate, with slight variations among the survey groups conservative or very conservative accounted for about 43 percent, with the rest liberal or very liberal. In the 2008 presidential election, they narrowly split for Barack Obama over John McCain, 47-45 percent.
Some 58 percent of respondents were age 46 or older, so perhaps New Jersey plays better among the prized younger demographics.