…small states tend to be more approving of their governors. Why? Gelman
has some theories: "In a large state, there will be more ambitious
politicians on the other side, eager to knock off the incumbent
governor; small states often have part-time legislatures and thus the
governor is involved in less political conflict; small states (notably
Alaska) tend to get more funds per capita from the federal government,
and it’s easier to be popular when you can disburse more funds; large
states tend to be more heterogeneous and so it’s harder to keep all the
voters happy. As the graphs show, the pattern isn’t perfect, but it
looks real to me."
I have an additional hypothesis. People from small states, especially atypical small states, sometimes have an inferiority complex vis-a-vis the other states or regions. Taking pride in their politicians is one way of compensating for that. Furthermore there is often less to do in underpopulated states and is not pride sometimes a substitute for action? New Yorkers are not in fact so proud of the Metropolitan Opera, but in parts of Wisconsin the Green Bay Packers are king.