Minnesota Nice

Hey y’all.  Some of you may have caught me on Minnesota Public Radio this morning sharing a “shallow” dive analysis on Minnesota restaurant reviews and why they rate higher than the other metros from our regional analysis (see blog post titled We Made It to Regionals!).  At the time we  wrote the regional analysis, we didn’t have any good hypotheses for why Minnesota restaurants came out on top.  But after more snooping around, we found some evidence that points to a little bit of “Minnesota Nice” influencing the reviews.  (For those of you who are not familiar with the phrase, it describes stereotypical behavior of native Minnesotans to be courteous and mild-mannered).  Here’s the “shallow” dive analysis shared on the air.

Passive Aggressive Behavior, Quantified

The Minnesota Nice stereotype encompasses passive aggressive behavior.  Ya know, “I really liked your blahblahblah, BUT maybe next time you can meeglemorf instead?  Just a suggestion!”  Or something like that.  So one hypothesis is that maybe Minnesotans don’t give lower ratings out of politeness, even though they do have complaints.

To check this out, we did a quick count of reviews that contained conjunction words like “but”, “although” and “however” that would suggest a critique was on its way after a compliment, and we did this for 3 (out of 5) star reviews because those seemed like they could have been rated lower had a tougher critic been writing the review.  For Minnesota, 58% of 3 star reviews contained at least one of those words.  For Georgia, Massachusetts and Los Angeles, that number was 48%.  Passive aggressive, indeed.

Non-Minnesotans Give Lower Ratings to Minnesota Restaurants

A spot check of the Yelp reviews for 15 Minnesota restaurants showed that non-Minnesotans rated those restaurants lower — an average of 3.27 out of 5 stars versus 3.4 overall.   Now, 15 data points is not a lot of data, and 0.13 is not a huge spread.  But it points the same way as the other analyses — Minnesotans leave higher ratings.  And it takes away from the argument that Minnesota restaurants in our regional analysis were simply better than those in the other metros.

Cultural differences is probably not the only factor accounting for this spread, but it’s our best (or at least most interesting) guess at this point.  Perhaps an analysis of Massholes is our next step? 😉

3 Replies to “Minnesota Nice”

  1. A quick t-test will tell you whether the differences you quantified are statistically significant or not. A difference of 0.13 out of 5.00 doesn’t quite pass the smell test given a total of 15 responses for pool data sets. Seems like lots of other variation would make it hard to really peg this on any real attribute. Its a good way to generate page clicks though!

    1. That’s true, Beau. No statistical significance test was run on that particular data. It was just a quick and dirty spot check to see if that explanation was too farfetched. More study needed!

  2. Hell, I’m surprised the difference isn’t greater. As a Minnesotan, I’m here to say there’s something I call “Minnesota Smug” as well. It’s equally pernicious.

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