America’s 100 most liberal-friendly counties: numbers 40-21

Chris Palko Contributor
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It’s day four of our countdown of America’s 100 most friendly counties for liberals — on Monday, we listed numbers 100-81, on Tuesday we counted down 80-61, on Wednesday we sorted numbers 60-41 and you’ll find numbers 40-21 below.

And remember, we also we counted down the country’s friendliest counties for conservatives the other week.

Here is a slideshow of numbers 40-21.

And here’s a reminder of the factors we used to make our list:

  • 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

40. Johnson County, Iowa
Largest city: Iowa City

Iowa City is a surprising stronghold of liberalism. In the middle of flyover country, the University of Iowa dominates the civic tone of the county. Due to the university, 52 percent of the adult population are college grads, a higher proportion than San Francisco. Iowa City is also where the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, considered the premier literary workshop in the country, is held.

39. Franklin County, Mass.
Largest city: Greenfield

Rural Western Massachusetts was once a conservative Yankee bastion, but residents have transitioned to the contemporary liberalism of the Democratic Party. Prep school Deerfield Academy located here shows the shift: It once required chapel attendance, and now is proud of environmentally friendly buildings.

38. DeKalb County, Ga.

Largest city: Atlanta (majority is in Fulton County)

Yes, Georgia has a contribution to the list of liberal-friendly counties. DeKalb County is the 2nd-richest black-majority county in America. Atlanta’s large black middle class has migrated towards this county. The town around Stone Mountain, the Mount Rushmore of the Confederacy, is now 70 percent black. Emory Univeristy, one of the South’s best, is located in Druid Hills. One exception is the city of Dunwoody on the northern border, which is like the diehard conservative locations in the rest of metro Atlanta.

37. Ramsey County, Minn.
Largest city: St. Paul

As major northern cities go, St. Paul isn’t that liberal. Two of its last three Democratic mayors endorsed George W. Bush. The county is mostly the city itself, so it makes the list due to the lack of suburbs to buffer the Democratic percentages. The county is 2-to-1 Democratic, even though he first ring suburbs inside Ramsey County are politically in the middle.

36. Hartford County, Conn.
Largest city: Hartford

Of all the places in the United States, Mark Twain decided to move to Hartford once he was properly established. Hartford was the capital of the American insurance industry, but unfavorable business conditions have chased many insurers from the city. The city has become about 40 percent Hispanic in recent years. Hartford doesn’t totally define the county unit. West Hartford, an affluent town across the Connecticut River, has about half the population of its larger neighbor. The county gave Obama 65 percent of the vote.

35. Napa County, Calif.
Largest city: Napa

Napa conjures an image of relaxing on a veranda while enjoying a great California red. When residents aren’t enjoying the fruits of the best wine producing region in North America, they are typically liberals who try to preserve a privileged environment. Very high living costs mean that large-scale development isn’t desirable, even if residents weren’t fervent NIMBYists.

34. Sonoma County, Calif.
Largest city: Santa Rosa

To the immediate west of Napa County is Sonoma. Sonoma County is on the Pacific Coast, and it is another core county of Northern California wine country. Sonoma County is somewhat more Democratic than Napa, giving Obama 73 percent of the vote. It also has four Whole Foods, one of the highest number of per capita Whole Foods in America.

33. Mercer County, N.J.
Largest city: Trenton

New Jersey contains a series of troubled inner cities (see Newark, Camden) and Trenton is one of them. The city has declined significantly in the last 50 years, but stays above the others because it’s the state capital. The other main attraction in the area is Princeton University, bringing an Ivy League touch to an otherwise blue-collar county. Both segments are heavily Democratic, outweighing the somewhat conservative suburban townships.

32. Prince George’s County, Md.
Largest city: Bowie

America’s largest black middle-class lives in Prince George’s County, Md., east of Washington D.C. Not all of the county is prosperous: The areas inside the Beltway are essentially extensions of dangerous Southeast D.C. Because it’s a transition zone, the county has more carjackings than every county in the state (some of which have worse crime problems) combined. The county gave Obama 89 percent of the vote, his single best county in all of America.

31. Berkshire County, Mass.
Largest city: Pittsfield

The Berkshire Mountains prove that a long heritage can be forgotten quickly. Until 1991, this area had never elected a Democratic congressman. This year, Sen. Scott Brown lost every town here but one (Otis). The county has less focus on higher education than others in Western Massachusetts, but it has given between 72-74 percent to Democratic candidates for president the last two elections.

30. Queens County, N.Y.
Co-terminus with the Borough of Queens

Once upon a time, Queens was a swing county/borough at the national level. Eisenhower and Nixon won Queens outright, and Reagan received about 45 percent. It still is a swing county on the local level, as it is far more amenable to local Republicans than other areas in New York City. But a demographic revolution turned a largely white ethnic borough into the most diverse county in America, with an estimated 138 languages spoken. The astounding diversity has made the county much more liberal, with Obama winning by a 3-to-1 margin.

29. Suffolk County, Mass.
Largest city: Boston

Boston was called the “Hub of the Universe” by Yankee elite due to its place in cultivating high culture. Unitarianism first came together here, and the current headquarters for the super-liberal Unitarian Universalist Association is on the wealthy Beacon Hill. Not all of Boston is fancy: Anyone who saw “The Departed” knows South Boston is far different. Nearly all of Suffolk County is the city of Boston, and the county unit is 75 percent Democratic.

28. Contra Costa County, Calif.
Largest city: Concord

Contra Costa County is on the East Bay, with more inhabitants than the City of San Francisco. It is varied, with depressed industrial areas like Richmond (the city in the movie Coach Carter) and affluent inland suburbs such as Walnut Creek and Concord. There are also fast-growing suburbs on the eastern part of the county that are pushing against environmental constraints on growth. Every incorporated place in the county voted for Obama.

27. Cook County, Ill.
Largest city: Chicago

President Obama’s other hometown, Chicago, accounts for about half of Cook County’s population. The poor South Side of Chicago has little in common with the ritzy suburbs of the North Shore. Most city neighborhoods in Chicago long have been Democratic, and formerly Republican-leaning affluent suburbs have become Democratic as well. Chicago’s virtual gun ban is the impetus for the pending Supreme Court case on restricting firearms, McDonald v Chicago.

26. Durham County, N.C.
Largest city: Durham

The Duke lacrosse case laid bare a sharp town-gown divide in Durham. The difference between wealthy, mostly white Duke University and the mostly poor, black city of Durham provided the impetus for prosecutor Mike Nifong to railroad three students. The county generally finds room for agreement on politics, giving Obama 75 percent of the vote.

25. Alameda County, Calif.
Largest city: Oakland

Shipbuilding magnate Henry Kaiser’s decision to recruit Southern black workers to his industrial concerns in World War II had incredible unforeseen consequences. Everything from funk music to the Black Panthers sprung from the county. It’s not all Oakland — Alameda County also includes Berkeley, which is in the running for most left-wing place in America, and middle-class interior suburbs such as Dublin and Pleasanton.

24. Kings County, N.Y.
Co-terminus with the Borough of Brooklyn

Brooklyn is New York City’s most populous borough, containing more residents than Manhattan. Like Queens, Brooklyn is an incredibly diverse area that has continued to be a borough of distinct ethnic neighborhoods, even if the ethnic groups in those neighborhoods have changed greatly in the past few decades. The borough is on a national level 75-80 percent Democrat.

23. Los Angeles County, Calif.
Largest city: Los Angeles

Los Angeles County has about as many people as the entire state of Michigan. It is by far the most populous county in America, with about twice as many residents as runner-up Cook County. The decline of the defense industry in Southern California has swung the county left. An estimated 4 to 5 million Hispanics live in the county, about 10 percent of the entire national total. One thing keeping its ranking down is its narrow support for Proposition 8.

22. City and County of Denver, Colo.
Co-terminus with City of Denver

Denver embodies what could be called “microbrewery liberalism.” In cities that brew excellent handcrafted beer, you you find population that is highly educated, highly secular and — to residents’ slight embarrassment, highly white. Denver’s current mayor, John Hickenlooper, was the founder of a successful microbrewery himself. Its congressional seat was held by Pat Schroeder, and now by Diana DeGette. The city has an impressive four Whole Foods.

21. Tompkins County, N.Y.
Largest city: Ithaca

Tompkins County is almost totally dominated by higher education. A county of only about 100,000, it contains two major universities: Ivy League Cornell and liberal arts school Ithaca College. The city of Ithaca gave Ralph Nader more votes than George W. Bush in 2000. Tompkins was the only county in the state where Obama defeated New York Senator Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. The Dalai Lama set up his top North American Buddhist monastery here.

Check back tomorrow for The Daily Caller’s list of America’s top 20 friendliest counties for liberals.