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Photos: Ten Best Cities for Liberals -- Including Those Supposedly Better Than Boulder

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Think Boulder's the ultimate destination for liberals in America? Livability.com disagrees. Yes, Boulder made the site's list of ten best cities for liberals, but several places finished ahead of it. Do you agree with the picks? Find out by counting down the photo-illustrated top ten, featuring excerpts from Livability text and the methodology used in compiling the roster. To see the original post (including lists of best cities for conservatives and centrists, too), click here.

See also: Photos: The Ten Most Livable Cities -- and Where Boulder Ranks

Number 10: Newport, Rhode Island 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.... Number 9: Alexandria, Virginia Largely populated by professionals who work for the federal government, military or government contractors, Alexandria, Va., like other D.C. suburbs, contains a diverse group of highly educated residents. Every member of Alexandria's city council, including four-term Mayor William Euille, is a Democrat. City leaders strongly support environmental protection and sustainability.... Continue to keep counting down Livability's ten best cities for liberals. Number 8: Mercer Island, Washington Considered one of the wealthiest suburbs of the Seattle area, Mercer Island offers a liberal-friendly environment for its residents. Residents tend to mind their own business when it comes to social issues such as same-sex marriage, and don't mind paying for quality of life amenities like parks, biking trails and extra school programs. Locals view themselves as a bit more conservative than their counterparts in Seattle, but compared to many Republican strongholds, Mercer Island is very much to the left of center. The last time a Republican presidential candidate won the vote here was in 1984.... Number 7: Ann Arbor, Michigan Residents of Ann Arbor tend to support left-wing candidates in all forms of government. Democrats hold all but one position on the 10-member city council. That position is held by an independent. City leaders have for years enacted progressive legislation, such as lessening the penalties for marijuana possession and protection access to abortion doctors. In 1974, Kathy Kozachenko won a seat on Ann Arbor's city council and become the first openly homosexual candidate to win public office in the country. Ann Arbor native Jeff Irwin was recently rated the most liberal member of Michigan's House of Representatives by Inside Michigan Politics. Irwin has proposed such state legislation as a ban on fracking, a repeal of the ban on same-sex marriage and a repeal of criminal penalties for marijuana possession.... Continue to keep counting down Livability's ten best cities for liberals. Number 6: College Park, Maryland Students at the University of Maryland routinely get involved with the College Park political scene. In 2009, UM student Marcus Afzali even won a seat on the city council. Many of the university's 37,000 students identify as liberals and greatly influence the values of the town. The last time a Republican presidential candidate won the vote in College Park was in 1972, when Richard Nixon beat George McGovern.... Number 5: Evanston, Illinois Shortly after Richard Nixon took the White House, voters in Evanston, Ill., started backing Democrats. These days, Republican candidates stand little chance of being elected to any level of government in Evanston. Nearly 85 percent of votes cast in the 2012 presidential election went to Barack Obama, who earlier this month choose Evanston's Northwestern University as the location for a major policy speech. More than 50 languages are spoken at Evanston schools, a reflection of the city's cultural diversity. ... Continue to keep counting down Livability's ten best cities for liberals. Number 4: Boulder, Colorado Before Boulder became a destination for entrepreneurs and tech startups, it was a town full of hippies. While the city has become more mainstream, left-leaning values remain a dominate part of the political landscape. The last time a Republican presidential candidate won the majority vote in Boulder was in 1988. The University of Colorado Boulder plays a big part in maintaining the city's liberal mindset, with more than 32,000 college students occupying the town. Though not as well attended as say a UC football game, events advocating the recreational use of marijuana have drawn large crowds in Boulder.... Number 3: Somerville, Massachusetts Considered a hipster haven by many Bostonians, Somerville, Mass., is a magnet for young progressives. Residents largely support Democrats running for office and learn to the left on most social issues.

Born and raised in Somerville, U.S. Rep. Michael E. Capuano was the city's mayor before he was elected to Congress. Capuano is currently serving his eighth term as a representative and is a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure, Financial Services, and House Ethics committees. He's supported pro-choice legislation, civil liberties, health-care reform and marriage equality. Capuano has strongly opposed the war in Iraq and voted against the Patriot Act....

Continue to keep counting down Livability's ten best cities for liberals. Number 2: Hoboken, New Jersey Hoboken, N.J., has all the classic signs of a liberal city. It's got one of the highest proportions of residents between the ages of 24 and 35, a mayor who supports same-sex marriage and a U.S. representative who stays true to traditional Democratic values.

Dawn Zimmer became the first female mayor of Hoboken in 2009 and has become the face of city's political scene. Zimmer strongly supports same-sex marriage, and during the fall of 2013, officiated the first same-sex marriage in the city. Zimmer frequently and publicly disagrees on policy issues with her governor, possible Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie.....

Number 1: Berkeley, California Few cities have seen the rapid social change, civic unrest and political upheaval that Berkeley, Calif., has experienced. Once a focal point for anti-war protests in the '60s, Berkeley remains a city where capitalism and societal norms are consistently challenged, while equality and environmental protection efforts are strongly supported. Democrats outnumber Republicans here by a margin of more than 10 to 1, according to state voter registration numbers. In 2012, Berkeley became one of the first cities in the country to proclaim a day recognizing bisexuals, and in 2014, the city council approved a measure to provide free medical marijuana to low-income patients. In November 2014, Berkeley voters will choose whether to offer a constitutional amendment denying corporations the same rights as people....


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 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.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

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