The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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December 30, 2012

Poll puts state in a pretty good light... sort of

— Although many West Virginians fear MTV’s reality show “Buckwild” will reinforce negative stereotypes, a Washington-based public relations firm says many Americans see the state in a positive light.

Widmeyer Communications said nearly one-half of the American public described West Virginia as “natural” and “friendly” when asked to describe the state in a public opinion poll.

“Our national survey indicates some good value openers for the state,” said Scott Widmeyer, CEO of Widmeyer Communications.

“A couple of key takeaways; Based on what we learned from this survey, nearly 75 million Americans are likely to visit West Virginia within the next three years. Secondly, the small-town friendly charm that West Virginia offers is something the state needs to capitalize on. This can be a real magnet to attract people who are looking for getaway vacations that offer recreation, leisure and relaxation.”

This poll comes on the heels of MTV’s “Buckwild,” a show focusing on “an outrageous group of childhood friends from the rural foothills of West Virginia,” and is set to debut Jan. 3.

Many people are saying “Buckwild” will be the new “Jersey Shore” and Sen. Joe Manchin didn’t lose any time voicing his opinion on the show.

“Instead of showcasing the beauty of our state, you preyed on young people, coaxed them into shameful behavior and now you are profiting from it,” he said in a letter to MTV producers, which also asked for the show’s cancellation.

“This show plays to ugly, inaccurate stereotypes about the people of West Virginia.”

But Widmeyer Communications’ poll seems to depict otherwise: “While the survey found one-quarter has a favorable opinion of the state, nearly two-thirds have no impression of West Virginia.”

The show, regardless of opinions, may at least bring more awareness about West Virginia, as 8 percent of those polled thought the state was part of Virginia and another 16 percent were not sure it was a separate state.

Widmeyer said of those surveyed, many would enjoy outdoor activities, sightseeing, and arts and crafts if they visited the state.

The poll was conducted in October and each question was asked among a representative sample of 1,000 adults.

— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com

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