Where does West Hollywood fall on the Los Angeles political spectrum?
Our recent report on the November 2016 election showed that West Hollywood voters stood out for their support of — or opposition to — most of the 19 ballot measures. For example, the city ranked number one countywide in its support of ammunition-buyer background checks.
For this report, we used the November voting data to place the county’s 88 cities and 70-plus unincorporated areas on a two-dimensional political spectrum.
We found common threads in the voting data with the help of a statistical tool called “principal component analysis.” We use the biggest thread as our horizontal dimension. It captures 70% of the differences in support for ballot measures across communities.
We’ll call it the “political” dimension, running from “left” to “right.” It reflects familiar Democratic versus Republican policy differences on issues such as:
- Taxes and spending
- Criminal justice
- Gun control
- Bilingual education
- Environmental protection
- Healthcare regulation
- Campaign finance
We know it’s the Democratic-Republican split because it’s 97% correlated with who voters chose for president.
West Hollywood anchors the left end. Inglewood, Santa Monica, and Culver City are the next closest cities. Moving along the left side, we see Los Angeles, then Beverly Hills, Long Beach, and Burbank around the county average.
Leona Valley is farthest to the right. It’s an unincorporated community in the northern part of the county.
Comparing the two ends of the political dimension
The chart below compares how the two ends of the political dimension — West Hollywood and Leona Valley — voted on a few ballot measures. West Hollywood strongly supported background checks for ammunition buyers, bilingual education, the sales tax for Metro, the high-earner income tax extension, and the repeal of the death penalty. Those measures won 70% to 90% of the city’s vote. Leona Valley voted against all five. For two of them, support was under 20%.
Leona Valley’s voters were also six times more likely than West Hollywood’s to support the Republican presidential nominee in November’s election.
On some issues, the left-right split doesn’t adequately explain differences among communities. For example, communities on the left were more supportive of marijuana legalization on average, but it depended on the community. Among “left” communities, the yes vote ranged from 50% to over 80%. For “right” communities, it ranged from under 40% to 65%. That’s a big overlap. The most supportive right community (65%) was more supportive than many left communities (as low as 50%).
Another example is the proposal to require condoms in adult films. The majority of the county’s left communities voted yes, but two dozen didn’t, including West Hollywood. They joined the right communities in voting no, though probably for different reasons. West Hollywood residents may have seen a no vote as pro-personal-freedom and pro-LGBT. Many prominent LGBT organizations opposed the measure.
To capture these differences, we added a vertical dimension to the political spectrum. For lack of better terms, we’ll call it the “social” dimension and label the ends as “more socially conservative” and “more socially liberal.”
West Hollywood stands apart on the liberal end of this dimension. The city supported marijuana legalization and opposed the condom rule by about 10 percentage points more than Santa Monica, the second most liberal city on this dimension.
Two-dimensional political spectrum
The chart below combines the two dimensions into a political spectrum for Los Angeles County. It’s a snapshot based on ballot-measure votes in November 2016. The political (horizontal) dimension is the primary one. It captures 70% of the differences among communities.
The analysis suggests that:
- West Hollywood, Santa Monica, and Culver City are the most liberal cities. The unincorporated area of Topanga is similarly liberal on both dimensions.
- Los Angeles sits in the middle of the social dimension and on the left of the political dimension, though not as far left as some communities.
- Beverly Hills, Burbank, and Long Beach are close to Los Angeles, but a bit closer to the middle on the political dimension.
- Inglewood is close to West Hollywood on the political dimension, but separated on the social dimension by differences on the condom and marijuana measures.
- Communities like Leona Valley and Antelope — both in the northern part of the county — are the farthest to the right politically and most conservative on social issues.
- Communities like Rolling Hills — a city on the Palos Verdes peninsula — are similar to Antelope politically but somewhat less conservative on social issues.
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