By Joseph O'Leary
(Reuters) - Utah and Minnesota came out on top in a national poll to pinpoint the most livable states in the future, based on the habits and decisions made by citizens and community leaders today.
The survey results released on Tuesday were based on responses from 530,000 Americans in all 50 states that were studied to spot trends indicating future improvement, said Dan Witters, spokesman for the Gallup poll.
Utah ran away with the results for the poll's 13 metrics. The home of the Great Salt Lake came in either first or second for such topics as smoking rates, clean and safe water, positive work relationships, daily learning and public perceptions that the state was "getting better," not "getting worse."
Minnesota was first in economic confidence and easy access to exercise, and held a high ranking in nine out of 13 metrics, including the number of citizens who visit dentists annually and full time employment.
"It's reasonable to conclude that these 13 metrics that we used serve as viable vanguards of future livability, be it five, ten or 20 years down the road," Witters said.
The metrics measured behaviors that affect a community's health, such as rates of obesity or smoking, as well as fundamentals for living such as access to clean water or a strong economy.
Rounding out the poll's top five most livable states in the future were Colorado, which has the country's lowest obesity rate; Nebraska, which is second in full-time employment; and North Dakota, which is first in job creation and employment.
Among the states considered least livable in the future, West Virginia ranked last in five metrics including economic confidence, smoking levels and obesity, while Mississippi was last in full-time employment, and Kentucky was 49th in smoking rates and "learning something new every day."
Poll results provided a vision of the future that could be vastly different if community leaders and citizens ultimately change their minds about key decisions, such as job creation, or alter such behaviors as smoking, Witters said.
The random national telephone poll was conducted from January 2011 to June 2012 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent. It was conducted by Gallup in partnership with Healthways, the disease management company headquartered in Franklin, Tennessee.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Vicki Allen)