If you’ve dreamed of fleeing your NPR-besotted, blue-state neighborhood for more sympathetic environs, but you’re not ready to take to the woods, we may have a solution.
The Daily Caller is ranking the 100 conservative friendliest counties in America. The rankings were determined using the following criteria:
- How counties have voted in the past two presidential elections
- Median household income, factoring in cost of living
- Home ownership percentage
- Married family percentage
- Civilian veteran percentage
- State unionization laws, whether a right-to-work state or mandatory union state
- State tax burden–state income taxes, factoring in available deductions
- State concealed weapons laws, ease of carrying weapon legally
- State weekly religious attendance, as measured by Pew
- State abortion laws, as measured by Americans United for Life
- Intangibles, such things as a long conservative history, an ingrained military culture, prominent right-wing politicians
There are two qualifications:
A “county” must be a county-level unit, which includes parishes in Louisiana, independent cities in Virginia and boroughs/municipalities in Alaska
The population must be over 50,000 as of 2008.
Here is part one, Numbers 100 to 81 (click to view the slideshow). The Daily Caller will be counting down 20 counties every day this week. On Friday, we will reveal the top 20 conservative-friendly counties in the nation.
100. Onslow County, N.C.
Largest city: Jacksonville
Onslow County’s identity is tied to Camp Lejeune, a Marine base used for amphibious assault training, and a series of satellite military installations in the Jacksonville area. Not surprisingly, Onslow County has one of the heaviest concentrations of veterans in the nation, at more than 26 percent of the population. It is a heavily Republican county that would rank much higher if it didn’t have a below-average household income.
99. Lake County, Fla.
Largest city: Eustis
Lake County is appropriately named. Most of the development in the suburban Orlando county is on isthmuses in between lakes. While Lake County is a booming suburban area with large numbers of young families, what really warrants its presence on this list is the mammoth retirement community of The Villages. The Villages has turned into a must-visit stop for Republican candidates and conservative commentators. Sarah Palin drew an audience of 60,000 to a campaign rally in 2008 — nearly the same size as the entire community.
98. Ada County, Idaho
Largest city: Boise
Boise has been one of the fastest-growing, and most conservative friendly, cities in America. While Boise is a swing city politically, the county is heavily Republican. Boise features far more middle-class, single-family housing than other cities of a similar size. It features a low tax, entrepreneur friendly business climate that has grown a strong small business sector.
97. Lancaster County, Penn.
Largest city: Lancaster
Images of shoefly pie cooling on a windowsill and a buggy rattling down the road may spring to mind at the mention of Lancaster, but while it’s arguably the center of Amish culture in the U.S., the more pervasive religious tradition there is the German reformation ethic associated with the Pennsylvania Dutch. Due to the rich soil in the area, the county has become one of the most productive agricultural areas in the country. The most famous politician was Rep. Bob Walker, who was Newt Gingrich’s top ally before and after the 1994 midterm elections.
96. Tarrant County, Texas
Largest city: Fort Worth
Fort Worth has more than 700,000 residents, which makes it about as large as San Francisco. It was the second-largest city in America to vote for George W. Bush in 2004 (Jacksonville, Fla., was the largest). While often lost in Dallas’s shadow, the western part of the Metroplex is gaining ground. Arlington, the third-largest city in the DFW area, is now the home of the Dallas Cowboys. It is one of the largest consistently Republican counties in the nation, and its margins are not usually close. It is weighed down somewhat, like all affluent Texas counties, with some of the highest property taxes in the nation due to the state’s “Robin Hood plan,” designed to equalize school funding.
95. Maricopa County, Ariz.
Largest city: Phoenix
Two of the Republican party’s presidential nominees in the last 50 years hailed from the largest county on this list: Barry Goldwater and John McCain. Maricopa County contains Phoenix, which leans Democratic, and most of the Phoenix suburbs, which are heavily Republican. Suburbs such Scottsdale, Mesa and the fast growing West Valley are some of the most solidly conservative territory in the country. This area is not as Republican as it once was, mostly due to the growing Hispanic population. The political future of the county, and Arizona itself (about 60 percent of the state lives in the county) depends upon successful wooing of the new immigrants.
94. Weber County, Utah
Largest city: Ogden
The first of five Utah counties to make this list, Weber County is the northern edge of the Great Salt Lake basin where nearly all of Utah’s population lives. The influence of the Mormon population is evident; Utah has the second-highest proportion of weekly religious attendance (Mississippi is higher). Ogden was long the second city of Utah and its most famous native is J. Willard Marriott, founder of Marriott Hotels.
93. Cabarrus County, N.C.
Largest city: Concord
Cabarrus County isn’t the wealthiest county or the most Republican county around (though it does well in both categories). But it is the epicenter of the NASCAR world. Charlotte Motor Speedway hosts the Coca Cola 600, one of NASCAR’s major races. The majority of Sprint Cup drivers base their operations in various spots throughout the county. Also here is the Concord Mills Mall, the largest tourist attraction in North Carolina.
92. Benton County, Wash.
Largest city: Kennewick
This is the sole county from the Pacific Northwest to make the list. The county hosts two of the three Tri-Cities that form a fast growing metropolitan area on the banks of the Columbia River. Forbes considered Kennewick to be the 2nd best city in America last year for job growth. The county gave both Bush and McCain more than 60 percent of the vote. Washington’s lack of religious roots is balanced out with relatively lax gun laws and no state income tax.
91. Cape Girardeau County, Mo.
Largest city: Cape Girardeau
If you’ve ever wondered how Rush Limbaugh came to be, you must understand where he came from. Cape Girardeau, while not wealthy, is a town out of a Norman Rockwell painting. It is generally more prosperous than most mid-sized towns in the Midwest. Its local politics are almost completely controlled by conservative Republicans. It is only at about the national average for home ownership and married families, but the political culture is so strongly Republican that it votes like it is wealthier. El Rushbo is not an aberration; he is just a more articulate salesman for his hometown’s values.