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Western U.S. residents rank their state as the best in survey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "The West is the best," rock icon Jim Morrison sang in the 1960s, and many Americans seem to agree, with overwhelming majorities of residents in several Western states saying in a Gallup survey they believe life is better on their home turf.

Eight states west of the Mississippi River ranked in the top 10 of places where residents said theirs was among the best U.S. states to live, according to the poll, released on Thursday.

At the top of that list were Montana and Alaska, where 77 percent of survey respondents gave their state that designation, according to Gallup.

Other states that ranked high among their residents were conservative Utah at 70 percent, Wyoming trailing at 69 percent and Texas at 68 percent. The island state of Hawaii, with its high cost of living, also saw 68 percent of residents polled ranking their state as best.

The only non-Western states in the top 10 were New Hampshire at No. 7 with 67 percent and Vermont at No. 10 with 61 percent support.

Gallup officials said in a statement that it was difficult to tell what might link such factors as terrain and climate with residents' positive attitudes.

But most of the states that ranked high on the Gallup list have low populations, including Wyoming, Vermont and Alaska, the organization noted.

By comparison, one in four residents polled in Illinois, the fifth most populous U.S. state, told Gallup their state was the worst place to live in the nation.

Gallup officials noted Illinois residents had the least trust in their state government and were among the most resentful about what they pay in state taxes, which the organization said could contribute to low morale.

The bottom 10 U.S. states as ranked by their residents were: Rhode Island, Illinois, Mississippi, Louisiana, Michigan, New Mexico, New Jersey, Maryland, Missouri and Connecticut.

The survey was conducted between June and December 2013, with a random sample of about 600 adults interviewed by telephone. The margin of error was 5 percentage points.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Shumaker)

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