Even the most conservative cities in America are barely right of center, as this great chart from the Economist, based on research from Chris Tausanovitch at UCLA and Christopher Warshaw at MIT, shows:
This list from the Economist based on the research of Chris Tausanovitch at UCLA and Christopher Warshaw at MIT has much more meaning if one considers the type of cities that are the most conservative or the most liberal.
Number one on the list, Mesa, Arizona is a suburb of Phoenix with no real pretense of being a “city” as commonly understood. There is no real downtown in spite of the fact that Mesa has almost 458,000 spread over 132 square miles southeast of Phoenix. Although there are some pockets of expensive housing in northern Mesa, this “city” is pretty much an endless vista of lower middle class ranch suburbia. In the 2010 Census, the city was 26.5% Latino and 64.0% non-Hispanic White. As a city with such a large Latino population it is a bit of a mystery as to why Mesa is SO conservative. Aurora, Colorado; Arlington, Texas; and Anaheim are other examples of gigantic suburbs masquerading as cities.
Number two is Oklahoma City. I will give OKC credit for being a “real” city though it is unusual in the sense that it is over 600 square miles. The city has annexed its conservative suburbs and being Oklahoma, boy are they conservative. In spite of the city Father’s efforts downtown to make the place interesting, it is essentially flat and boring overall. Mass annexing of suburban developments on the urban fringe can lead to cities that are more conservative than those that have tiny areas where the city is made up of what is essentially the urban core. Charlotte is busy annexing as much of Mecklenburg County that it can get it’s hands on and only determined suburban opposition has kept Houston at bay as it tries to gobble up as much of Harris County as possible.
Number three on the list is Virginia Beach. Virginia Beach not only merged with its county to create a geographically large place, the central city of the metropolitan area, Norfolk is geographically hemmed in and is considerably smaller than it’s own suburb. The bottom line is that another way to come out looking very conservative is to merge with your county and incorporate conservative suburbanites into the city proper. Jacksonville, FL; Nashville, Anchorage, and Lexington, KY all appear more conservative due to their city-county mergers.
Of course, some cities are innately conservative: witness Colorado Springs and Wichita.
On the other hand, The most liberal cities are geographically small (San Francisco, 47 sq. miles; Boston, 48 sq. miles; DC, 61 sq miles) and surrounded by separately incorporated cities and towns. There is no place to grow in these cities other than through gentrification and ever increasing density.
The bottom line is that the more urban, the more liberal. The most liberal place in the United States is Manhattan and the density of the borough is unrivaled in the United States. Manhattan has 1,626,000 residents and an additional 2,300,000 workers all jammed into 23 square miles. In the last Presidential Election President Barack Obama received 500,000 votes compared to a paltry 89,000 for Willard Romney.