America’s top 20 conservative-friendly counties

The Daily Caller is ranking the most conservative-friendly counties in America. On Monday, we counted down numbers 81-100. On Tuesday, we looked at numbers 61-80. On Wednesday, we looked at numbers 41-60. On Thursday, we looked at numbers 21- 40. Now it’s time for the final installment: numbers 1-20 (click for slideshow).  The Daily Caller’s Aleks Kulczuga profiled the winning county here.

A quick reminder of our 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

A “county” must be a county-level unit, which includes parishes in Louisiana, independent cities in Virginia and boroughs/municipalities in Alaska, and the population must be more than 50,000 as of 2008.

Check back soon for our list of the 100 most liberal-friendly counties in the U.S.

Here are numbers 20-1:

20. Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Alaska
Largest city: Wasilla

Sarah Palin doesn’t exist in a vacuum. She was mayor of her town, Wasilla, which is the largest suburban town in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, the northern suburbs of Anchorage. The Mat-Su Valley, as it is referred to, is the most temperate part of Alaska, even able to support some agriculture. The mostly small-scale suburban settlement is based around the Matanuska and Knik Rivers, which flow into the Cook Inlet by Anchorage. It is a generally affluent area with a high percentage of military veterans (Elmerdorf Air Force Base is in Anchorage). Palin’s neighbors gave her 78 percent of the vote.

19. Paulding County, Ga.
Largest city: Dallas

Republicans turned Georgia politics upside-down in the past decade due to exurban growth in counties like Paulding County. This lies beyond more established, inner suburban counties like aforementioned Cobb County. Most of the county is unincorporated; county seat Dallas has only about 5,000 residents. This county is heavily decentralized, and residents identify more with their residential plan than any city or town. The county gave Bush 76 percent in 2004.

18. El Paso County, Colo.
Largest city: Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs is the right-wing stronghold of Colorado. The Air Force Academy and NORAD are based in the county. About 19 percent of the population are civilian veterans, one of the highest rates in the nation. The other conservative influences are social: Focus on the Family is located in Colorado Springs, as are many other parachurch organizations. Colorado Springs was named by Money Magazine as the best big city to live in 2006.

17. Warren County, Ohio
Largest city: Mason

Warren County is the most conservative of the conservative suburban Cincinnati counties. Its high household income and below-average cost of living means that it has one of the highest standards of living in the nation. The county’s greatest claim to fame is that King’s Island amusement park is based in Mason. Neil Armstrong also lives in the county.

16. Union County, N.C.
Largest city: Monroe

Charlotte is the most conservative of North Carolina’s major cities, and the nearby suburb of Union County is even more so. The communities on the border nearest Charlotte are among the richest in the U.S., while the rest of the county is moderately prosperous. The most famous native is Jesse Helms, whose father was Monroe’s police chief.

15. Utah County, Utah
Largest city: Provo

Utah County is the location of Provo, increasingly the center of Mormon culture. It is the home of Brigham Young University, one of the best right-leaning universities, and the LDS Church’s primary Missionary Training Center. According to a set of political science researchers, Provo is the most conservative city in America with a population over 100,000. Provo has also developed a fast-growing tech sector, filling the area with comfortable white-collar employment. The county has the second-highest percentage of married families on the list.

14. Clay County, Fla.
Largest community: Lakeside

Clay County is located just outside of Jacksonville’s beltway loop. The biggest focus of development is Lakeside, a community just over the border from Jacksonville. The county is a popular place to live for military personnel stationed in Jacksonville. Twenty percent of households contain veterans. It gave Bush 76 percent of the vote. Clay also has a high standard of living, boosted by a large number of retirees.

13. Denton County, Texas
Largest city: Denton

Denton County is to the north of Fort Worth’s Tarrant County. The Metroplex is a hotbed for affluent conservatism and Denton County fits this to a T. Dick Armey transitioned from an economics professor at local University of North Texas to the county’s longtime congressman, rising to House majority leader. Armey was known as a free-market enthusiast, and his home applied these principles to their own situation, with great effect. The population of the county almost tripled during his 18 years in office.

12. Douglas County, Colo.
Largest community: Highlands Ranch

The link between rapid growth and conservatism is on display with Douglas County. It is the main focus of suburban growth in the Denver area, and it was the only suburban Denver county to stay in the Republican column in 2008. The largest development, Highlands Ranch, was developed by Orange County, Calif., developers along the lines of master planned Southern California suburbs. This was the core of Tom Tancredo’s congressional district, showing that affluent professionals were willing to elect a hard-right politician. This is the richest county in Colorado and the second-wealthiest county to make the list (not adjusted for cost of living).

11. Delaware County, Ohio
Largest city: Delaware

Columbus has always been a relatively conservative metropolitan area and the shiny new growth area is Delaware County, north of Columbus. Until about 20 years ago, this was small-town Ohio, which reared all-American figures such as Norman Vincent Peale and Branch Rickey. Columbus has edged north, and the southern part of the county is now suburbanized. It is in the top 10 among major counties in standard of living, and has an 81 percent home ownership rate.