Baltimore among the most liberal cities

Urban Chronicle

Study: Charm City ranks 14th in the country, says a nonpartisan center on voting research in California. No. 1? It's Detroit.

August 18, 2005|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

BALTIMORE HAS long been a Democratic bastion, but just how liberal is the city?

Pretty darn liberal, according to a newly released study.

Baltimore is the 14th most liberal city in the country, according to the study by the nonpartisan Bay Area Center for Voting Research in Berkeley, Calif. Among major cities -- those with more than 300,000 people -- Baltimore ranked as the sixth most liberal.

The study examined 2004 presidential election returns for 237 cities with populations greater than 100,000. The cities were ranked based on the percentage of votes received by George W. Bush (conservative) and John Kerry (liberal). Votes received by third-party candidates were allocated based on their ideologies.

By that reckoning, Detroit was the most liberal city in the country, with nearly 94 percent of voters casting ballots for liberal candidates, followed closely by Gary, Ind., and Berkeley. Provo, Utah, was the most conservative, with 86 percent of its vote going to right-of-center candidates, followed by the Texas cities of Lubbock and Abilene.

Baltimore residents cast nearly 83 percent of their votes for Kerry and liberal independents -- a greater percentage than in such other well-known liberal strongholds as Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and Boston.

Like a lot of studies that produce lists, the straightforwardly titled "The Most Conservative and Liberal Cities in the United States" contains a mix of interesting insights and fun facts.

The study looked at the geographic and demographic characteristics of the most liberal and conservative cities as measured by the 2000 census and found some notable differences.

As you might expect from overall voting trends, the more conservative cities are concentrated in the South and West, while the more liberal ones are on both coasts and in the Midwest and Northeast.

But conservative cities also tend to be smaller, whiter, more affluent and educated, and have more married couples; liberal ones are more populous and have more singles and African-Americans, and lower levels of incomes and education.

Jason Alderman, a director of the Bay Area Center, said the correlation between a city's racial makeup and its political leanings was one of the study's most surprising findings.

"We certainly didn't expect to see such strong racial divisions," he said. "It's somewhat disheartening."

The 25 most conservative cities have an average white population of about 75 percent and an average black population of 6.4 percent, the study found. Ten were 80 percent or more white; only three were more than 10 percent black.

In contrast, the 25 most liberal cities have an average black population of more than 40 percent, about equal to that of the white population. Eight have a black population of more than 40 percent, including Baltimore at 64 percent.

Only seven are more than 50 percent white, and two of those are the liberal college towns of Berkeley and Cambridge, Mass.

Alderman also noted the presence of "blue cities in red states, like Birmingham, Ala., and red cities in blue states." California, for example, had seven of the most conservative cities to go along with four of the most liberal ones.

Generally, political leanings are more liberal in bigger cities, where, the study surmised, "concerns about social services for the poor, health care and other issues traditionally touted by Democrats and liberal candidates are more salient than in a suburban environment."

Of the 20 most populated cities, seven were among the 25 most liberal of any size; none was among the most conservative. And in the 10 most liberal cities with populations of more than 300,000, the vote for liberal candidates was 80 percent or more.

But in the 10 most conservative big cities, the vote for conservative candidates ranged from 67 percent in Colorado Springs, Colo., to 54 percent in Houston.

Now for some of the fun stuff:

Oakland, Calif., whose national reputation was forged by images of rowdy Raiders fans, skews more liberal than San Francisco, the center of sophistication and gay culture.

In Texas, Dallas, the headquarters of Neiman-Marcus, is more liberal than Austin, the Southwest's headquarters of post-hippies and high technology.

Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan, edges out Madison, home to the University of Wisconsin, as the Midwest's most liberal college town.

Hartford, Conn., had the greatest percentage of third-party votes at slightly more than 4 percent.

And talk about a split vote: Indianapolis, Louisville, Ky., and Independence, Mo., were among the cities where the liberal-conservative vote was just about 50-50.

Most liberal cities

........................Percentage Vote

City ..............Lib. Con.

1 Detroit 94 6

2 Gary, Ind. 93.1 6.9

3 Berkeley, Calif. 92.8 7.2

4 Washington 90.4 9.6

5 Oakland, Calif. 90.3 9.7

6 Inglewood, Calif. 89.7 10.3

7 Newark, N.J. 86.8 13.2

8 Cambridge, Mass. 86.6 13.4

9 San Francisco 84.2 15.8

10 Flint, Mich. 83.5 16.5

11 Cleveland 83.5 16.5

12 Hartford, Conn. 83.4 16.6

13 Paterson, N.J. 82.9 17.1

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