Best Places to Live

2014 Best Cities for Liberals

What makes a great city for a liberal or conservative, or a centrist for that matter?

Clearly the political landscape is important. Do the people around you share your beliefs and values? Are your elected officials in Washington D.C. representing your interests? Or is your town full of people openly carrying their firearms and trying to force their idea of morality on you?

UPDATED: The Best Cities for Liberals, Conservatives & Moderates 2016

Being a great place to live is about more than just politics. Do people around you also take part in the kinds of activities, watch the same shows, shop at the same stores and have similar interests to you? What are those goods and services, and how do they differ from party to party?, working with advisory board member Dr. Kevin Stolarick, took both the political and nonpolitical aspects into account when creating this Top 10 list. Here's how:

We used data from several geographies: City, county and congressional district. First, we gauged the ideological skew of the congressional representation of a city. To do that, we utilized nonpartisan watchdog GovTrack’s analysis of the members of the House of Representatives on a conservative/liberal spectrum. Then, using data from Esri, we looked at how residents of each city self-report their own political leanings on a five-point scale from very liberal to very conservative. The last piece of the political puzzle was voting results from the 2012 Presidential election. Using county-level data (the most detailed that exists uniformly) we looked at the Romney/Obama split, excluding votes for third-party and write-in candidates.

That gave us a pretty good sense of the political leanings of each town.

We then asked Experian Marketing Services to help us create a basket of goods - one restaurant, one automotive brand, one magazine, one retailer and one TV show – that are heavily favored by one end of the political spectrum or another. Then, we backtracked and found areas where people use those goods and services to a high degree. For example, we found that liberals like Suburu cars way more than conservatives do, so we looked for areas where lots of people drive Suburus.

That gave us four scores: Ideology of the representation; voting of the residents; political leanings of the residents; and how the shopping habits of the residents relate to political affiliation. We weighted each evenly and came up with a grand total.

What we found, partially due to the use of county-level data for some of the measures, that certain states had a sizable number of cities that skewed one way or another. Liberal cities were most often found in California, Maryland and Massachusetts. Conservatives concentrated in places like Texas and Tennessee. If you lean one way or another, you’ll find yourself among friends in those states. To make our list a little more geographically balanced, we took the most-skewed city in each state until we had our Top 10.

How’d we do? You can cast your vote in the comments.

Ranking Criteria
2012 Presidential Vote
Ideology of congressional representative
Registered voters
Consumer habits
  • 10

    Newport, RI

    Population: 24,459
    Tom McC

    President John F. Kennedy made Newport, R.I., the site of his “summer white house” while in office. Much like the state of Rhode Island, most Newport residents lean towards the left of the political spectrum. The last time a Republican presidential candidate won the vote here was 1984. Among state legislators, Democrats outnumber Republicans by a margin of 101 to 11.

    Congressman David Cicilline represents Rhode Island's 1st Congressional District, which includes Newport. Cicilline is considered a rank-and-file Democrat according to GovTrack. He won office in 2010, campaigning on promises to put Rhode Islanders back to work and protect social service programs for seniors and families. He's supported efforts to help manufacturers retool their factories and retain workers to keep production of goods in this country. Cicilline has fought attempts to weaken Medicare and strongly supported the end to having troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.  

    Residents here are likely to ...

    • drive a Subaru.
    • shop at American Eagel Outfitters.
    • watch Two and a Half Men.
    • read Time magazine.