Where does West Hollywood fall on the national political spectrum?
In an earlier report, we used voting data to construct a political spectrum for Los Angeles County. West Hollywood anchored one end. In this report, we broaden the comparison to cities throughout the United States. We use estimates developed by two professors, Chris Tausanovitch of UCLA and Chris Warshaw of MIT.
The political spectrum
The professors used survey and demographic data to estimate the policy preferences of residents in 1,638 cities and towns with at least 20,000 residents. Each city got a score representing the average “policy conservatism” of its residents. Their analysis showed that the score corresponds to traditional left-right differences.
We’re using their scores as a political spectrum. The left end is anchored by Berkeley, California, as the most liberal city. It has the lowest score, around -1.0. Cedar City, Utah, is at the right end. Its high score — close to 0.7 — makes it the most conservative city on the spectrum.
The chart below shows the percentage distribution of cities and towns (with 20,000-plus residents) along the political spectrum. Judging by the percentages, the middle of the political spectrum is just a bit below zero. If we take population into account, the center moves closer to -0.2.
National comparison for West Hollywood
The two most liberal cities in the US are in California, according to the estimates. They are Berkeley and San Francisco. Oakland is also on the top 10 list, but West Hollywood is not. Washington, DC, and Seattle, Washington, are there. Two Boston-area communities make the list, though Boston itself just misses at #11. Two New Jersey communities near New York City are in the top 10. One Chicago-area city rounds out the list.
West Hollywood is very liberal but not nearly as liberal as Berkeley or San Francisco, according to the estimates. West Hollywood’s score is roughly -0.6. The cities on the top 10 list range from -1.0 to -0.8.
West Hollywood’s number still puts it among the 100 most liberal cities and towns with 20,000-plus residents. The chart below shows where West Hollywood sits on the political spectrum.
It ranks #64, but it could easily be higher or lower. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the estimates for small cities. At the extreme ends, the city could rank in the top 10 or fall out of the top 250.
If we focus on California, West Hollywood makes the top 10 list for most liberal cities with 20,000-plus residents. It comes in at #9. Seven of the others are in the Bay Area, led by Berkeley, San Francisco, and Oakland. The two remaining cities are Santa Monica and Santa Cruz (on the central coast).
Most California cities are less liberal than West Hollywood. The chart below shows the percentage of cities along the political spectrum. Based on the professors’ numbers, the most conservative are Apple Valley (San Bernardino County), Yorba Linda (Orange County), and Redding (Shasta County, in the north).
Locally, West Hollywood and Santa Monica are in roughly the same place on the political spectrum (-0.6). They’re probably more liberal than Glendale (-0.3), Pasadena (-0.2), Burbank (-0.2), and Beverly Hills (-0.1). It’s possible they’re a bit more liberal than Los Angeles (-0.5), Culver City (-0.5), and Inglewood (-0.4), but the differences aren’t big compared to the uncertainty around the estimates.
What the professors found
We’re using the professors’ estimates as a political spectrum, but they had another purpose. They used the numbers to see how closely local government policies follow the left-right preferences of their residents. They found:
- Residents really do have a say: “These results demonstrate a robust role for citizen policy preferences in determining municipal policy outcomes.”
- Left-right differences carry over to local issues: “The policies enacted by cities across a range of policy areas correspond with the liberal-conservative positions of their citizens on national policy issues.”
- Institutional reforms don’t necessarily increase responsiveness: “These institutions [such as an elected mayor] have little consistent impact on policy responsiveness in municipal government.”
They reported their findings in a 2014 article in the American Political Science Review, “Representation in Municipal Government.”
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