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The states shown in dark red are usually included, while all or portions of the striped states may or may not be conside

The Western United States, commonly referred to as the American West or simply "the West," traditionally refers to the region comprising the westernmost states of the United Statesmarker. Because the U.S. expanded westward after its founding, the meaning of the West has evolved over time. Prior to about 1800, the crest of the Appalachian Mountainsmarker was seen as the western frontier. Since then, the frontier moved further west and the Mississippi River was referenced as the easternmost possible boundary of The West.

In the 21st century, the states which include the Rocky Mountains and the Great Basin to the West Coast are generally considered to comprise the American West. Denver, Coloradomarker is sometimes considered the eastern march of the West.

Besides being a purely geographical designation, "The West" also has anthropological connotations. While this region has its own internal diversity, there is arguably an overall shared history, culture (music, cuisine), mind set or world view and closely interrelated dialects of English. However, certain subregions and states, such as Utahmarker and southern California, have certain things that distinguish them from the other parts of the West.

The "West" had played an important part in American history; the Old West is embedded in America's folklore.


In its most expansive definition, the western U.S. is the largest region, covering more than half the land area of the United States. It is also the most geographically diverse, incorporating geographic regions such as the Pacific Coast, the temperate rainforests of the Northwest, the Rocky Mountains, the Great Plainsmarker, most of the tall-grass prairie eastward to Western Wisconsin, Illinoismarker, the western Ozark Plateaumarker, the western portions of the southern forests, the Gulf Coast, and all of the desert areas located in the United States (the Mojave, Sonoranmarker, Great Basin, and Chihuahua deserts).

The region encompasses some of the Louisiana Purchase, most of the land ceded by Britainmarker in 1818, some of the land acquired when the Republic of Texas joined the U.S., all of the land ceded by Britain in 1846, all of the land ceded by Mexicomarker in 1848, and all of the Gadsden Purchase.

Arizonamarker and New Mexicomarker are always considered to be in the Southwest while portions of Californiamarker, Coloradomarker, Nevadamarker, Oklahomamarker, Texasmarker, and Utahmarker are sometimes considered part of the Southwest, while all or part of Idahomarker, Montanamarker, Oregonmarker, Washingtonmarker, and Wyomingmarker can be considered part of the Northwestmarker, more narrowly part or all of those same states, with the exception of Wyomingmarker and the eastern portions of Montanamarker and Idahomarker, and the addition of the Canadianmarker province of British Columbiamarker comprise the Pacific Northwest.

The West can be divided into the Pacific States; Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington, with the term West Coast usually restricted to just California, Oregon, and Washington, and the Mountain States, always Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. Alaska and Hawaii, being detached from the other western states, have few similarities with them, but are usually also classified as part of the West. Western Texasmarker in the Chihuahuan Desert is also traditionally considered part of the Western U.S.

Some western states are grouped into regions with eastern states. Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota are often included in the Midwest, which also includes states like Iowamarker, Illinoismarker and Wisconsinmarker. Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana—and to a lesser extent, Oklahoma—are also considered part of the South.

It is rare for any state east of the Mississippi River to be considered part of the modern west. Historically, however, the Northwest Territory was an important early territory of the U.S., comprising the modern states of Ohiomarker, Indianamarker, Illinoismarker, Michiganmarker and Wisconsinmarker, as well as the northeastern part of Minnesotamarker.


US States in which no ethnic or racial group forms a majority

According to the 2000 Census, the West's population was:

As defined by the United States Census Bureau, the Western region of the United Statesmarker includes 13 states (with a total 2006 estimated population of 69,355,643) and is split into two smaller units, or divisions:

However, the United States Census Bureau uses only one definition of the West in its reporting system, which may not coincide with what may be historically or culturally considered the West. For example, in the 2000 Census, the Census Bureau included the state with the second largest Hispanic population, Texas, in the South, included the state with the second largest American Indian population, Oklahomamarker, also in the South, and included the Dakotas, with their large populations of Plains Indians, in with the Midwest. However, it should be noted that the western half of Oklahomamarker and far West Texas, are usually neither culturally, geographically or socioeconomically identified with the South.

Statistics from the 2000 United States Census, adjusted to include the second tier of States west of the Mississippi, show that, under that definition, the West would have a population of 91,457,662, including 1,611,447 Indians, or 1.8% of the total, and 22,377,288 Hispanics (the majority Mexican), or 24.5% of the total. Indians comprise 0.9% of all Americans, and Hispanics, 12.5%. Asians, important from the very beginning in the history of the West, totaled 5,161,446, or 5.6%, with most living in the Far West. African-Americans, totaled 5,929,968, or 6.5%--lower than the national proportion (12.8%). The highest concentrations (12%) of black residents in the West are found in Texas — which is also considered a Southern state -- and in California.

The West is still one of the most sparsely settled areas in the United States with 49.5 inhabitants per square mile (19/km²). Only Texas with 78.0 inhabitants/sq mi. (30/km²), Washington with 86.0 inhabitants/sq mi. (33/km²), and California with 213.4 inhabitants/sq mi. (82/km²) exceed the national average of 77.98 inhabitants/sq mi. (30/km²).
These maps from the 2000 US Census highlight differences from state to state of three minority groups.
Note that most of the Native American, Hispanic, and Asian population is in the West.
The entire Western region has also been strongly influenced by European, Native and Hispanic culture; it contains the largest number of minorities in the U.S. and encompasses the only four American states where all racial groups including Caucasian are a minority (California, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Texas). While most of the studies of racial dynamics in America such as riots in Los Angeles have been written about European and African Americans, in many cities in the West and California, European and African Americans together are less than half the population because of the preference for the region by Hispanics and Asians. African and European Americans, however, continue to wield a stronger political influence because of the lower rates of citizenship and voting among Asians and Hispanics.

Because the tide of development had not yet reached most of the West when conservation became a national issue, agencies of the federal government own and manage vast areas of land. (The most important among these are the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management within the Interior Departmentmarker, and the U. S. Forest Service within the Agriculture Departmentmarker.) National parks are reserved for recreational activities such as fishing, camping, hiking, and boating, but other government lands also allow commercial activities like ranching, logging and mining. In recent years, some local residents who earn their livelihoods on federal land have come into conflict with the land's managers, who are required to keep land use within environmentally acceptable limits.

The largest city in the region is Los Angelesmarker, located on the West Coast. Other West Coast cities include San Diegomarker, San Josemarker, San Franciscomarker, San Bernardinomarker, Sacramentomarker, Seattlemarker, and Portlandmarker. Prominent cities in the Mountain States include Denvermarker, Colorado Springsmarker, Phoenixmarker, Tucsonmarker, Albuquerquemarker, Las Vegasmarker, and Salt Lake Citymarker.

Natural geography

Along the Pacific Oceanmarker coast lie the Coast Ranges, which, while not approaching the scale of the Rockies, are formidable nevertheless. They collect a large part of the airborne moisture moving in from the ocean. Even in the relatively arid climate of central California, the Coast Ranges squeeze enough water out of the clouds to support the growth of coast redwoods. East of the Coast Ranges lie several cultivated fertile valleys, notably the San Joaquin Valleymarker of California and the Willamette Valley of Oregon.

Beyond the valleys lie the Sierra Nevada in the south and the Cascade Range in the north. These mountains are some of the highest in the United States. Mount Whitneymarker, at 14,505 feet (4,421 m) the tallest peak in the contiguous 48 states, is in the Sierra Nevada. The Cascades are also volcanic. Mount Rainiermarker, a volcano in Washington, is also well over 14,000 feet (4,250 meters approx.). Mount St. Helensmarker, a volcano in the Cascades erupted explosively in 1980marker. A major volcanic eruption at Mount Mazamamarker around 4860 BCE formed Crater Lakemarker. These mountain ranges see heavy precipitation, capturing most of the moisture that remains after the Coast Ranges, and creating a rain shadow to the east forming vast stretches of arid land. These dry areas encompass much of Nevada, Utah and Arizona. The Mojave Desert and Sonoran Desertmarker along with other deserts are found here.

Beyond the deserts lie the Rocky Mountains. In the north, they run almost immediately east of the Cascade Range, so that the desert region is only a few miles wide by the time one reaches the Canadian border. The Rockies are hundreds of miles wide, and run uninterrupted from New Mexicomarker to Alaska. The tallest peaks of the Rockies, some of which are over 14,000 feet (4,250 meters approx.), are found in central Colorado.

The West has several long rivers that empty into the Pacific Oceanmarker, while the eastern rivers run into the Gulf of Mexicomarker. The Mississippi River forms the easternmost possible boundary for the West today. The Missouri Rivermarker, a tributary of the Mississippi, flows from its headwaters in the Rocky Mountains eastward across the Great Plainsmarker, a vast grass plateau, before sloping gradually down to the forests and hence to the Mississippi. The Colorado Rivermarker snakes through the Mountain states, at one point forming the Grand Canyonmarker. The Colorado is a major source of water in the Southwest and many dams, such as the Hoover Dammarker, form reservoirs along it. So much water is drawn for drinking water throughout the West and irrigation in California that in some years, water from the Colorado no longer reaches the Gulf of Californiamarker. The Columbia River, the largest river in volume flowing into the Pacific Ocean from North America, and its tributary, the Snake River, water the Pacific Northwest. The Platte runs through Nebraska and was known for being a mile (2 km) wide but only a half-inch (1 cm) deep. The Rio Grandemarker forms the border between Texas and Mexico before turning due north and splitting New Mexico in half.

According to the United States Coast Guard, "The Western Rivers System consists of the Mississippi, Ohio, Missourimarker, Illinois, Tennessee, Cumberland, Arkansasmarker and White River and their tributaries, and certain other rivers that flow towards the Gulf of Mexicomarker".

Climate and agriculture

Most of the public land held by the U.S.
National Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management is in the Western states.
Public lands account for 25 to 75 percent of the total land area in these states.
Bureau of Reclamation regions

As a very gross generalization, the climate of the West can be described as overall semiarid; however, parts of the West get extremely high amounts of rain and/or snow, and still other parts are true desert and get less than 10 inches of rain per year. Also, the climate of the West is quite unstable, and areas that are normally wet can be very dry for years and vice versa.

The seasonal temperatures vary greatly throughout the West. Low elevations on the West Coast have warm to very hot summers and get little to no snow. The Desert Southwest has very hot summers and mild winters. The Inland Northwest has a continental climate of warm to hot summers and cold to bitter cold winters.

Annual rainfall is greater in the eastern portions, gradually tapering off until reaching the Pacific Coast where it again increases. In fact, the greatest annual rainfall in the United States falls in the coastal regions of the Pacific Northwest. Drought is much more common in the West than the rest of the United States. The driest place recorded in the U.S. is Death Valleymarker, California.

Violent thunderstorms occur east of the Rockies. Tornadoes occur every spring on the southern plains, with the most common and most destructive centered on Tornado Alley, which covers eastern portions of the West, (Texasmarker to North Dakotamarker), and all states in between and to the east.

Agriculture varies depending on rainfall, irrigation, soil, elevation, and temperature extremes. The arid regions generally support only livestock grazing, chiefly beef cattle. The wheat beltmarker extends from Texas through the Dakotasmarker, producing most of the wheat and soybeans in the U.S. and exporting more to the rest of the world. Irrigation in the Southwest allows the growing of great quantities of fruits, nuts, and vegetables as well as grain, hay, and flowers. Texas is a major cattle and sheep raising area, as well as the nation's largest producer of cotton. Washington is famous for its apples, and Idaho for its potatoes. California and Arizona are major producers of citrus crops, although growing metropolitan sprawl is absorbing much of this land.

Local state and Government officials started to understand, after several surveys made during the latter part of the nineteenth century, that only action by the federal government could provide water resources needed to support the development of the West . Starting in 1902, Congress passed a series of acts authorizing the establishment of the United States Bureau of Reclamation to oversee water development projects in seventeen western states.

During the first half of the 20th century, dams and irrigation projects provided water for rapid agricultural growth throughout the West and brought prosperity for several states, where agriculture had previously only been subsistence level. Following World War II, the West's cities experienced an economic and population boom. The population growth, mostly in the Southwest, has strained water and power resources, with water diverted from agricultural uses to major population centers, such as Las Vegasmarker and Los Angeles.


Plains make up most of the eastern half of the West, underlain with sedimentary rock from the Upper Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic eras. The Rocky Mountains expose igneous and metamorphic rock from both the Precambrian and the Post Precambrian periods. The Inter-mountain States and Pacific Northwest have huge expanses of volcanic rock from the Cenozoic period. Salt flats and salt lakes reveal a time when the great inland seas covered much of what is now the West. The Pacific states are the most geologically active areas in the United States. Earthquakes cause major damage every few years in California. While the Pacific states are the most volcanically active areas, extinct volcanoes and lava flows are found throughout most of the western half of the West.

File:Columbia River.JPG| Columbia RiverImage:Rainier_and_sound.JPG| Puget Soundmarker & Mt.marker RainiermarkerFile:Columbia Coast.JPG|Columbia CoastImage:Sol_duc_rain_forest.JPG| Olympic National ParkmarkerImage:Bild 478.jpg|Antelope CanyonmarkerImage:Yosemite meadows 2004-09-04.jpg|YosemitemarkerImage:Delicatearch.png|Delicate ArchmarkerImage:Byrcecanyon.jpg|Bryce CanyonmarkerImage:Adams The Tetons and the Snake River.jpg|The TetonsmarkerImage:April 17 2005 Seaside Oregon United States.JPG|Pacific OceanImage:Monument Valley 2.jpg|Monument ValleyImage:Rogue River Oregon USA.jpg|Rogue RiverImage:Zion angels landing view.jpg|Angels Landingmarker in Zion NPmarkerImage:MtHood TrilliumLake.jpg|Mount HoodmarkerImage:Grandcanyon view1.jpg|Grand CanyonmarkerImage:Yellowstone Grand Geysir 01.jpg|YellowstonemarkerImage:Fillmorevolcano.jpg|Extinct Volcano, Utah

Image:Looking back to Little Port Walter - NOAA.jpg|AlaskaImage:El Capitan base 2005-03-12.jpg|El Capitan, TexasmarkerImage:Threepatriarchs.jpg|Zion National ParkmarkerImage:Big05.jpg|HawaiiImage:Snakeriveridfls.jpg|Snake River at Idaho FallsmarkerImage:Mojavedesert.jpg|Mojave DesertImage:Timpafcanyon.jpg|Western Rocky MountainsImage:GRBA Arial-Wheeler-Winter.jpg|Wheeler Peakmarker, Great Basin National ParkmarkerImage:View-from-Spanish-Bay.jpg|Pacific Ocean at Pebble Beach, CaliforniamarkerImage:Grandjunctionalpineloop 035.jpg|The Colorado RivermarkerImage:Glacier np.jpg|Glacier National ParkmarkerImage:Northwest New Mexico.jpg|The Colorado Plateau in northwest New MexicoImage:USMexicoborder.jpg|The Mexico – United States border at NogalesmarkerImage:Mount McKinley and Denali National Park Road 2048px.jpg|Mount McKinleymarker, Alaska. The highest point in North America.Image:Sunset in Saguaro National Park.JPG|Saguaro National ParkmarkerImage:SUPERSTITIONS AZ15.jpg|Superstition MountainsmarkerImage:Grand Junction Trip 92007 135.JPG|Green River in Utah.File:Utah winter scene in Great Basin.jpg|The Great Basin in winter.

History and culture

Facing both the Pacific Ocean and the Mexicanmarker border, the West has been shaped by a variety of ethnic groups. Hawaiimarker is the only state in the union in which Asian Americans outnumber white American residents. Asians from many countries have settled in Californiamarker and other coastal states in several waves of immigration since the 1800s, contributing to the Gold Rush, the building of the transcontinental railroad, agriculture, and more recently, high technology.

The southwestern border states – California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas – all have large Mexican American populations, and the many Spanish place names attest to their history as former Mexican territories.

The West also contains much of the Native American population in the U.S., particularly in the large reservations in the mountain and desert states.
The largest concentrations for black Americans in the West can be found in Southern California, Las Vegas, and parts of Colorado and Arizona.

Alaska – the northernmost state in the Union – is a vast land of few people, many of them native, and of great stretches of wilderness, protected in national parks and wildlife refuges. Hawaii's location makes it a major gateway between the U.S. and Asia, as well as a center for tourism.

In the Pacific Coast states, the wide areas filled with small towns, farms, and forests are supplemented by a few big port cities which have evolved into world centers for the media and technology industries. Now the second largest city in the nation, Los Angelesmarker is best known as the home of the Hollywoodmarker film industry; the area around Los Angeles also was a major center for the aerospace industry by World War II, though Boeing, located in Washington state would lead the aerospace industry. Fueled by the growth of Los Angeles – as well as the San Francisco Bay Areamarker, including Silicon Valleymarker – California has become the most populous of all the states. Oregon and Washington have also seen rapid growth with the rise of Boeing and Microsoft along with agriculture and resource based industries. The desert and mountain states have relatively low population densities, and developed as ranching and mining areas which are only recently becoming urbanized. Most of them have highly individualistic cultures, and have worked to balance the interests of urban development, recreation, and the environment.
Culturally distinctive points include the large Mormon population of Southeastern Idahomarker, Utahmarker, Northern Arizonamarker and Nevadamarker; the extravagant casino resort towns of Las Vegasmarker and Renomarker, Nevada; and, of course, the many Native American tribal reservations.

American Old West

Major settlement of the western territories by migrants from the states in the east developed rapidly in the 1840s, largely through the Oregon Trail and the California Gold Rush of 1849; California experienced such a rapid growth in a few short months that it was admitted to statehood in 1850 without the normal transitory phase of becoming an official territory. The largest migration in American history occurred in the 1840s as the Latter Day Saints left the Midwest for the safety of the West. Both Omaha, Nebraskamarker and St. Louis, Missourimarker laid claim to the title, "Gateway to the West" during this period. Omaha, home to the Union Pacific Railroad and the Mormon Trail, made its fortunes on outfitting settlers; St. Louis built itself upon the vast fur trade in the West before its settlement.

The 1850s were marked by political controversies which were part of the national issues leading to the Civil War, though California had been established as a non-slave state in the Compromise of 1850; California played little role in the war itself due to its geographic distance from major campaigns. In the aftermath of the Civil War, many former Confederate partisans migrated to California during the end of the Reconstruction period.

American cowboy circa 1887

The history of the American West in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century has acquired a cultural mythos in the literature and cinema of the United States . The image of the cowboy, the homesteader and westward expansion took real events and transmuted them into a myth of the west which has influenced American culture since at least the 1920s.

Writers as diverse as Bret Harte and Zane Grey celebrated or derided cowboy culture, while artists such as Frederic Remington created western art as a method of recording the expansion into the west . The American cinema, in particular, created the genre of the western movie, which, in many cases, use the West as a metaphor for the virtue of self-reliance and an American ethos. The contrast between the romanticism of culture about the West and the actuality of the history of the westward expansion has been a theme of late Twentieth and early Twenty-First century scholarship about the West . Cowboy culture has become embedded in the American experience as a common cultural touchstone, and modern forms as diverse as country and western music and the works of artist Georgia O'Keeffe have celebrated the supposed sense of isolation and independence of spirit inspired by the unpopulated and relatively harsh climate of the region .

As a result of the various periods of rapid growth, many new residents were migrants who were seeking to make a new start after previous histories of either personal failure or hostilities developed in their previous communities . With these and other migrants who harbored more commercial goals in the opening country, the area developed a strong ethos of self-determinism and individual freedom , as communities were created whose residents shared no prior connection or common set of ideals and allegiances. The open land of the region allowed residents to live at a much greater distance from neighbors than had been possible in eastern cities, and an ethic of tolerance for the different values and goals of other residents developed. California's state constitutions (in both 1849 and 1879) were largely drafted by groups which sought a strong emphasis on individual property rights and personal freedom, arguably at the expense of ideals tending toward civic community .

The twentieth century

By 1890, the frontier was gone. The advent of the automobile enabled the average American to tour the West. Western businessmen promoted U.S. Route 66 as a means to bring tourism and industry to the West. In the 1950s, representatives from all the western states built the Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center to showcase western culture and greet travelers from the East. During the latter half of the twentieth century, several transcontinental interstate highways crossed the West bringing more trade and tourists from the East. In the news, reports spoke of oil boom towns in Texasmarker and Oklahomamarker rivaling the old mining camps for their lawlessness, of the Dust Bowl forcing children of the original homesteaders even further west. The movies replaced the dime novel as the chief entertainment source featuring western fiction .

Although there has been segregation, along with accusations of racial profiling and police brutality towards minorities due to issues such as illegal immigration and a racial shift in neighborhood demographics, sometimes leading to racially based riots, the West has a continuing reputation for being open-minded and for being one of the most racially progressive areas in the United States.

Major Population Centers

File:LA Skyline Mountains2.jpg|Los Angelesmarker, CaliforniamarkerImage:Phoenix skyline Arizona USA.jpg|Phoenix, ArizonamarkerImage:Lightmatter sanfrancisco.jpg|San Franciscomarker, CaliforniamarkerImage:Downtown San Bernardino.jpg|San Bernardinomarker, CaliforniamarkerImage:Seattleskyline1cropped.JPG|Seattlemarker, WashingtonmarkerImage:Sandiego_1_bg_071302.jpg|San Diegomarker, CaliforniamarkerImage:SanJoseDowntownIMG016elf wb.jpg|San Jose, CaliforniamarkerImage:2006-03-26 Denver Skyline I-25 Speer.jpg|Denvermarker, ColoradomarkerImage:KOINCenterPortland.jpg|Portland, OregonmarkerFile:Boise_Idaho.jpg| Boise, IdahomarkerImage:Sacramento from Riverwalk.jpg|Sacramento, CaliforniamarkerImage:Las Vegas Strip.png|Las Vegas, NevadamarkerImage:Salt_Lake_City_panorama.jpg|Salt Lake Citymarker, UtahmarkerImage:Honolulu01.JPG|Honolulumarker, HawaiimarkerImage:Long Beach, CA at night.jpg|Long Beach, CaliforniamarkerImage:Downtown albuquerque from e.jpg|Albuquerque, New MexicomarkerImage:Anchorage1.jpg|Anchorage, AlaskamarkerImage:Oaklandatnight02192006.JPG|Oakland, CaliforniamarkerFile:DowntownBakersfield.jpg|Bakersfield, CaliforniamarkerImage:Reno with mountains.gif|Reno, NevadamarkerImage:SpokaneFromPalisades 20070614.jpg|Spokane, WashingtonmarkerImage:Tucson-downtown.jpg|Tucson, ArizonamarkerImage:CC COSPRINGS.jpg|Colorado Springs, ColoradomarkerImage:Billings Skyline.jpg|Billings, MontanamarkerImage:Santa Fe NM.jpg|Santa Fe, New MexicomarkerImage:Flagstaff_downtown_SFmtn.jpg|Flagstaff, ArizonamarkerImage:P1010649.JPG.jpg|Ogden, UtahmarkerImage:Idaho Falls Bonneville Hotel.jpg|Idaho Falls, Idahomarker

Major Metropolitan Areas

MSA Population

1 Los Angelesmarker-Long Beachmarker-Santa Anamarker 12,875,587 Californiamarker
2 Phoenixmarker-Mesamarker-Scottsdalemarker-Glendalemarker 4,281,899 Arizonamarker
3 San Franciscomarker-Oaklandmarker-Fremontmarker 4,157,377 Californiamarker
4 San Bernardinomarker-Riversidemarker-Ontariomarker 4,115,871 Californiamarker
5 Seattlemarker-Tacomamarker-Bellevuemarker 3,344,813 Washingtonmarker
6 San Diegomarker 3,146,274 Californiamarker
7 Denvermarker-Auroramarker 2,301,116 Coloradomarker
8 Las Vegasmarker-Hendersonmarker-N.marker Las Vegasmarker-Paradise 2,040,258 Nevadamarker
9 Sacramentomarker 1,974,810 Californiamarker
10 San Josemarker-Sunnyvalemarker-Santa Claramarker 1,734,721 Californiamarker
11 Portlandmarker-Beavertonmarker 1,576,541 Oregonmarker
12 Salt Lake Citymarker 1,005,232 Utahmarker
13 Tucsonmarker 946,362 Arizonamarker
14 Honolulumarker 902,704 Hawaiimarker
15 Fresnomarker 850,325 Californiamarker
16 Albuquerquemarker 841,133 New Mexicomarker
17 Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura 791,130 Californiamarker
18 Bakersfieldmarker 713,087 Californiamarker
19 Stocktonmarker 632,760 Californiamarker
20 Colorado Springsmarker 572,264 Coloradomarker
21 Boise Citymarker-Nampamarker 510,876 Idahomarker
22 Modestomarker 492,233 Californiamarker
23 Ogdenmarker-Clearfieldmarker 468,942 Utahmarker
24 Santa Rosamarker-Petalumamarker 466,725 Californiamarker
25 Spokanemarker 431,027 Washingtonmarker
26 Salinasmarker 414,449 Californiamarker
27 Vallejomarker-Fairfieldmarker 412,336 Californiamarker
29 Provomarker-Oremmarker 406,851 Utahmarker
30 Santa Barbaramarker-Santa Mariamarker-Goletamarker 403,134 Californiamarker


The region's distance from historical centers of power in the East, and the celebrated "frontier spirit" of its settlers offer two clichés for explaining the region's independent, heterogeneous politics. Historically, the West was the first region to see widespread women's suffrage. California birthed both the property rights and conservation movements, and spawned such phenomena as the Taxpayer Revolt and the Berkeley Free Speech Movement. It has also produced three U.S. presidents: Herbert Hoover, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

The prevalence of libertarian political thought, even if not labeled as such, can be widely observed. For example, the majority of Western states have legalized medicinal marijuana (all but New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming) and some forms of gambling (except Utah); Oregon and Washington have legalized physician-assisted suicide; Utah has a long history of former polygamous territorial leaders; and most counties in Nevada have legalized prostitution. There is less resistance to the legal recognition of same-sex unions: California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington recognize them, and only 28% of all western residents are against legal recognition (compared to the 48% in southern states).

The West Coast leans toward the Democratic Party . San Francisco's two main political parties are the Green Party and the Democratic Party. Seattle has historically been a center of radical left-wing politics; the union Industrial Workers of the World is particularly active. A former mayor of Salt Lake City, Rocky Anderson, supports same-sex marriage [26881], and Denver's residents have legalized the private use of marijuana, but only for persons aged 21 and older (Colorado's age of majority is 18) [26882]. Hawaii has come closest to adopting single payer healthcare financing in the U.S. Both the Democratic leaders of the U.S. Congress are from the region: Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

Interior areas are more Republican, with Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming being Republican strongholds, and Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico being swing states. The state of Arizona has been won by the Republican presidential candidate in every election except one since 1948, while the states of Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming have been won by the Republican presidential candidate in every election since 1964.

As the fastest-growing demographic group, Latinos are hotly contested by both parties ; immigration remains an important political issue for this group. Backlash against illegal immigration led to the passage of California Proposition 187 in 1994, a ballot initiative which would have denied many public services to undocumented residents. Association of this proposal with the California Republicans, especially incumbent governor Pete Wilson, is credited with driving many Hispanic voters to the Democrats.

See also


  1. US Census Bureau]
  2. regdiv.pdf US Census Bureau's official map
  3. Western States Data Public Land Acreage
  5. Frederick Jackson Turner, The Significance of the Frontier in American History, 1920, ISBN 0486291677, Ch.1: "In a recent bulletin of the Superintendent of the Census for 1890 appear these significant words: "Up to and including 1880 the country had a frontier of settlement, but at present the unsettled area has been so broken into by isolated bodies of settlement that there can hardly be said to be a frontier line. In the discussion of its extent, its westward movement, etc., it can not, therefore, any longer have a place in the census reports." On-line version of the book]

Further reading

  • Beck, Warren A., Haase, Ynez D.; Historical Atlas of the American West. University of Oklahoma Press, Oklahoma, 1989. ISBN 0-8061-2193-9
  • Lamar, Howard. The New Encyclopedia of the American West. Yale University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-300-07088-8
  • Milner II, Clyde A; O'Connor, Carol A.; Sandweiss, Martha A. The Oxford History of the American West. Oxford University Press; Reprint edition, 1996. ISBN 0-19-511212-1
  • Phillips, Charles; Axlerod, Alan; editor. The Encyclopedia of the American West. Simon & Schuster, New York, 1996. ISBN 0-02-897495-6
  • White, Richard. "It's Your Misfortune and None of My Own": A New History of the American West. University of Oklahoma Press; Reprint edition, 1993. ISBN 0-8061-2567-5

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