Big cities in the U.S. tend toward the liberal side of the political spectrum, even when they’re within conservative states (residents of Austin sometimes joke that their city is “an island surrounded by Texas”). But which cities are more liberal — or conservative — than their reputations?
In a paper due to appear in an upcoming issue of the American Political Science Review, researchers from MIT and UCLA pooled data from seven large-scale opinion surveys, conducted between 2000 and 2011, to develop measures of public policy preference in 51 cities with populations of more than 250,000. The most liberal cities were about what you would expect: San Francisco, Washington D.C., Seattle, Oakland and Boston; the most conservative city was Mesa, Ariz., followed by Oklahoma City, Virginia Beach and Colorado Springs. (The chart above, created by The Economist, is based on the researchers’ data.)
Overall, the liberal tilt of big cities is unmistakable. Even cities with conservative
reputations (such as Dallas, Santa Ana, Calif. and Cincinnati) show up as left-of-center, if only slightly. This is perhaps not surprising: As the Pew Research Center recently found, 46% of consistent liberals said they’d prefer to live in a city, versus just 4% of consistent conservatives. Liberals also are about twice as likely as conservatives to live in urban areas, while conservatives are more concentrated in rural areas.