Best Places to Live

2014 Best Cities for Moderates

What makes a great city for a liberal or conservative, or a moderate 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? In an increasingly polarized nation, these cities offer the chance for a more spirited debate with both the right and left represented. The representation from both sides of the aisle make them ideal places for moderates to congregate. 

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 as 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 districts. 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 Subaru cars way more than conservatives do, so we looked for areas where lots of people drive Subarus.

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, was 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

    Wildwood, MO

    Population: 35,776
    Photo courtesy of Eric Walter, available under a Creative Commons license.

    Though voters in surrounding St. Louis County have recently backed Democrats, residents of Wildwood, Mo., lean more to the right of the political spectrum. Wildwood is the home of Republican Todd Akin, who represented Missouri's 2nd Congressional District from 2001 to 2013, when he made an unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate.

    Ann Wagner, who GovTrack classifies as a moderate Republican, currently holds the 2nd Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Wagner, who was elected in 2012, found bipartisan support in the House for the Retail Investor Protection Act, legislation she authored that protects access to affordable investments for middle-class families. She wrote the SAVE Act, which would give prosecutors more tools and power to go after those who advertise sex slavery.  

    Residents here are likely to ...

    • drive a Subaru.
    • eat at Qdoba.
    • shop at Sam's Club.
    • watch Two and a Half Men.
    • read Time & Good Housekeeping.