America’s 100 most liberal-friendly counties: numbers 100-81

Chris Palko Contributor
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After counting down the list of the top 100 counties for a conservative to live in, it’s time to do the same for liberals.  If you still have your Obama bumper sticker on your Prius, here are the counties you should consider moving to.

The criteria for composing the list is as follows:

  • Percentage of the vote John Kerry and Barack Obama earned
  • Median household income, adjusted for cost of living
  • Percentage of adult population with bachelors degree or higher
  • Percentage of adult population in management/professional jobs
  • Unionization laws (whether right-to-work laws are present)
  • State concealed carry laws
  • State abortion laws, as measured by Americans United for Life
  • Status of same-sex partnerships (whether civil union, same-sex marriage, etc.)
  • Number of Whole Foods in the county
  • Strictness of bans on smoking

Note: counties are almost meaningless in New England. Their main responsibility is generally to administer prisons. Some New England states have outright abolished county governments.  Counties are used here to compare geographic areas similar to the rest of the country.

Here is a slideshow of 100-81.

100. Schenectady County, N.Y.
Largest city: Schenectady

Schenectady County is most famous for giving the world General Electric. However, in the last few decades, it has lost a third of its population. It still maintains a standard of living better than other Rust Belt cities. The county was Republican for a long time (the first of many on this list), but it has flipped into the Democratic column in the past decade like the most of Upstate New York.

99. Humboldt County, Calif.
Largest city: Eureka

Humboldt County is a sleepy county on the Northern California coast that weaves together many thrusts of contemporary liberalism. It contains Humboldt State University. The county is the site of Redwood National and State Parks, with the tallest, oldest trees in the world. To top it all off, Humboldt County is the center of the California marijuana industry, which was detailed in a 2008 New Yorker profile.

98. Bristol County, Mass.
Largest city: New Bedford

Barney Frank is one of America’s most famous liberals, and the majority of his district is in Bristol County. Although Frank seems to fit in with upper-class liberalism, his district is more blue-collar, containing gritty old cities such as New Bedford and Taunton. Outside of his district is Fall River, once the center of the American textile industry. Its standing is helped by Massachusetts’s liberal climate, however Obama ran three percentage points behind John Kerry’s 2004 performance.

97. Hampden County, Mass.
Largest city: Springfield

Springfield, Mass.’s greatest legacy is giving the world the game of basketball. Dr. James Naismith invented the game at a YMCA in town. Springfield is an old Yankee industrial town in a state of decline. Holyoke, also in the county is home to what is now the largest percentage of Puerto Ricans in any city outside of Puerto Rico. As with the above entry, the county is not very wealthy, but it is solidly Democratic.

96. Miami-Dade County, Fla.
Largest city: Miami

Miami has developed into one of America’s global cities — it is now the overseas capital of Latin America. Miami also has an established black community, and has long been a retirement haven for many Jews. Miami had a long-existing liberal intelligentsia, and the county is definitely Democratic-leaning. The Cuban presence keeps the county somewhat less Democratic than expected, and the state of Florida is not great for liberalism.

95. Strafford County, N.H.
Largest city: Rochester

Strafford County is on the northern Sea Coast of New Hampshire. This was precisely the sort of “flinty” Yankee county the Republican Party was built upon. Times have changed, and the area within the county has swung to Democrats. Durham is home to the University of New Hampshire. It has an above average rate of college graduates, but its living standards are not top flight.

94. Story County, Iowa
Largest city: Ames

On paper, Iowa should be a conservative bastion. It is a rural, farm state with a homogeneous population. But it has leaned liberal for the last decade. Story County is one of the more consistent Democratic counties because it’s the home of Iowa State University — about 47 percent of the adult population are college graduates, one of the best totals on the list.

93. Charles County, Md.
Largest community: Waldorf

The growth of the Washington metro area reached Charles County in southern Maryland this decade. The focus of the growth is Waldorf, a suburban community on the northern boundary of the county. The county has received some overflow from neighboring Prince George’s County. The continual migration from PG County has turned the county sharply Democratic, as Obama ran 12 points ahead of John Kerry.

92. Burlington County, N.J.
Largest community: Evesham Township

Southern New Jersey looks to Philadelphia as opposed to New York City. Burlington County is a core suburban Philadelphia county, which, like the Pennsylvania suburbs, have trended Democratic the last two decades. Considering it is on the opposite bank of the Delaware River from Philadelphia, it is relatively underdeveloped. It enjoys a solidly comfortable standard of living.

91. Alachua County, Fla.
Largest city: Gainesville

The University of Florida is the seventh-largest university campus in America, and it dominates Alachua County, located in the north-central part of the peninsula. While UF isn’t particularly known for collegiate progressivism, large campuses like this one have become a political force in and of themselves, giving Obama 60 percent of the vote. It is held down by Florida’s conservative state laws, being a right-to-work state, having few restrictions on guns, and forbidding gay marriage.

90. Grafton County, N.H.
Largest city: Lebanon

Rural New Hampshire was about as Republican as an area could have been 50 to 100 years ago. FDR never won in this area. The alignment of the parties has since changed, and Grafton County tied for Barack Obama’s best county in the state. The most famous institution here is Dartmouth College, the most secluded of the Ivy League schools. It would be more accurate to call New Hampshire libertarian as opposed to liberal; it allows same-sex marriage but also has the laxest seat-belt laws.

89. Washington County, Ore.
Largest city: Hillsboro

Washington County is a western suburban area of Portland, a liberal mecca. Due to Portland’s system of Urban Growth Boundaries mandating green belts, Washington County consists of the next available development outside of Portland itself. Beaverton contains the global headquarters of Nike. It is also home to the “Silicon Forest,” with major offices for Intel, Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard. It is generally wealthy and leans left.

88. Snohomish County, Wash.
Largest city: Everett

Snohomish County is the northern suburban county in the Seattle metro area. The large suburban city of Everett was the home of longtime Washington Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, a classic “hawkish” liberal. Snohomish isn’t as posh — or as liberal, as Seattle, but its tendencies are present in diluted form. Though it lacks some of the more conspicuous examples of modern liberalism, it is part of a left-leaning state.

87. Essex County, Mass.
Largest city: Lynn

The Essex County area is commonly known as the North Shore. There is two main types of towns here. One type is downscale, faded industrial cities such as Lynn, Lawrence and Haverhill. The other type is moderately prosperous coastal Yankee towns like Salem, Peabody and Gloucester. This is not the most liberal corner of Massachusetts, but it is still reliably Democratic.

86. Middlesex County, N.J.
Largest city: Edison

On the southern edge of the New York metro area is Middlesex CountyRutgers, New Jersey’s main public institution of higher learning, is in New Brunswick. The county is a sprawling slice of land in the center of New Jersey, bordering on one end Staten Island, and on the other Princeton. New Jersey is congenial for liberals, as it is one of the most anti-gun states in the nation. Middlesex County narrowly voted for Chris Christie last year, which holds it down in the standings.

85. Thurston County, Wash.
Largest city: Olympia

If you were to ask people on the street what the capital of Washington state is, many would guess Seattle. Olympia, the correct answer, is at the southern tip of the Puget Sound, where it developed a popular waterfront. Olympia is a pleasant town of about 40,000, with a large number of residents employed in education and state government. This was where Kurt Cobain wrote most of his Nevermind album. Like much of the Pacific Northwest, it is marked by an unrooted progressivism.

84. Fairfield County, Conn.
Largest city: Bridgeport

Fairfield County is a less a county unit than a historical region. Even in a small corner of Connecticut, there are many variances. On the “Gold Coast” — neighboring Greenwich and Stamford —  there are different political traditions. Such wealthy towns used to be strongly Republican, but that has changed as both parties have realigned. The hedge fund industry, mostly based in this area, gave overwhelmingly to Obama in 2008.

83. Linn County, Iowa
Largest city: Cedar Rapids

Cedar Rapids is a small city in eastern Iowa that doesn’t appear to have any liberal tendencies. It is one of the few remaining strongholds for farm Democrats — otherwise conservative people who are economically sensitive and more open towards voting Democrat. This likely was the case in 2008, as this county gave Obama 60 percent of the vote. Iowa is a cheap state to live in, boosting the seemingly ordinary standard of living.

82. Washington County, R.I.
Largest town: South Kingstown

Washington County doesn’t have a state government, it is just a historical name. This is referred to by Rhode Islanders as South County, a lightly populated area on the Atlantic coast. The University of Rhode Island is located here, but this area is not particularly more or less liberal than other areas in the state. It has one of the highest standards of living on this list once the costs in the area are factored in. It is not overwhelmingly Democratic, but a liberal will seldom feel threatened by conservatives in Rhode Island.

81. New Haven County, Conn.
Largest city: New Haven

New Haven is a city with a split identity: One part of the city’s economy revolves around Yale, one of the world’s premier universities. There are many pleasant areas in the county, but the city  itself is decrepit. Yale students have been warned about venturing into certain parts of the city due to the crime risk. Both parts of the city’s soul agree on supporting the Democratic party. The rest of the county is more middling politically, but the New Haven influence puts it solidly in the blue column.