As of the census of 2000, there were 27,467 people, 7,129 households, and 4,854 families residing in the county. The population density was 58 people per square mile (22/km²). There were 7,630 housing units at an average density of 16 per square mile (6/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 95.50% White, 0.24% Black or African American, 0.33% Native American, 0.57% Asian, 0.18% Pacific Islander, 2.23% from other races, and 0.95% from two or more races. 3.92% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 30.6% were of English, 10.7% German, 10.2% American and 5.3% Danish ancestry according to Census 2000.

There were 7,129 households out of which 39.00% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 60.10% were married couples living together, 5.70% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.90% were non-families. 12.70% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.60% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.66 and the average family size was 3.70.

In the county the population was spread out with 26.20% under the age of 18, 39.90% from 18 to 24, 16.00% from 25 to 44, 11.90% from 45 to 64, and 6.00% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 21 years. For every 100 females there were 90.90 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.60 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $32,607, and the median income for a family was $40,880. Males had a median income of $29,299 versus $18,628 for females. The per capita income for the county was $10,956. About 10.10% of families and 30.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.70% of those under age 18 and 10.10% of those age 65 or over.