Houston political leanings: conservative or balanced?The Bay Area Center for Voting Research just released a report ranking cities from politically conservative to liberal based on the 2004 election. Charles Kuffner has some great comments and article links here. The big story is that the city of Dallas (not the county or metro) got ranked as more liberal (#32) than Austin (#93), which threw a lot of people for a loop. Some people think their data or analysis is just wrong. Others think it's an artifact of all the Republicans leaving Dallas for the suburban cities (including Plano, which ranked as the fifth most conservative city in the nation), along with the large Democratic-leaning African American community in Dallas, which is lacking in Austin. I started out thinking the former, but after I looked at it a while, I came around towards the latter view.
One item in their report that should strike no one as news:
With the findings of this study, the San Francisco Bay Area can now officially be designated the most liberal region in the country. With three cities in the top ten liberal list – Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco – no other region comes close to matching the Bay Area.
As you might expect, Houston is the largest conservative city in the nation. Of the top 10, NY, LA, Chicago, Philly, Dallas, and Detroit are all pretty strongly liberal (inc. Detroit at #1), while Houston, Phoenix, and San Antonio are moderately conservative, with San Diego perched right on the fence as the #119 city in both the liberal and conservative lists. But here's the catch: San Diego voted 55/45 for Kerry over Bush. Houston, as the 62nd most conservative and 177th most liberal (out of 237 total cities), on the surface seems to tilt pretty far to the right, but only voted 53.6/46.3 for Bush over Kerry. The national vote was something like 51/48 (1% other), so Houston is pretty darn close to the national average. The skew is the result of a national bias of larger cities towards liberal. Manchester, NH was the most balanced city I could find in their list, at almost exactly 50/50, and that got it ranked #80 most conservative and #159 most liberal, very close to Houston's rankings.
The bottom line: compared to other large cities, we're very conservative, but compared to the country as a whole, we're right in middle. In my humble and biased opinion, that makes for a more diverse and more interesting city than other cities that are more monocultural (or at least monopolitical).