Along with New York and Massachusetts, California has been a liberal stronghold in the United States for decades. Whenever there is a major election, it is almost a given that the Golden State will bring in its electoral votes for the Democratic nominee.
Many people looking to move for work or to start a family want to find a place that aligns with their political and social values. When it comes to progressivism, much of California consistently delivers. As one of the biggest states in the country, there are many cities and towns in California each offering something different.
From bigger metropolises like San Diego and Los Angeles to smaller suburbs and towns like Inglewood and Coachella, there are varied and interesting liberal cities all over California. If you are looking to move to a place where you will fit in politically and culturally, read on to learn about some of the most liberal cities in California and what each has to offer.
San Francisco is famous for being one of the most liberal cities in the United States, both in terms of its voting record and its values. They have voted Democratic in every election since the 1950s. In fact, the term “San Francisco values” is used negatively by conservatives to describe the social and cultural values that are associated with progressives.
San Francisco accounts for its liberal population based on several factors, including its large population of people with higher education, its racial diversity, and its historical connection to the counterculture and civil rights movements of the 1960s.
Indeed, San Francisco continues to have a thriving and eclectic artistic community in the finest traditions of Haight-Ashbury.
Berkeley has been a liberal stronghold throughout the USA for years. That has been the case since at least the 1960s when it was a focal point for the counterculture and anti-war movements. The city is also home to the University of California, Berkeley, one of the most progressive universities in the country.
UC Berkeley is one of the main reasons that the town is so widely associated with progressivism. The university has pioneered programs on subjects as varied as gender studies and critical race theory. Its students are also some of the most politically active in the country. Berkeley also has the highest population of people who self-identify as liberals.
The university culture of Berkeley means that the liberals in the city also produce media and written work that spreads liberal ideals to other parts of the country. Writers and academics look to Berkeley for inspiration when discussing progressive ideas.
Oakland is another large city in the Bay Area that traditionally leans liberal. In fact, Oakland has a solid activist base, particularly among the black population.
While Oakland was a Republican stronghold in the early 20th Century, its racial and ethnic diversity changed during the civil rights movement. The Black Panther Party was formed in Oakland and gave rise to a long history of progressive political activism in the area.
More than 60% of residents are registered as Democrats. While this may not seem like a very high number, the number of local Republicans is less than 4%. The rest are not registered with a party but statistically vote for the most progressive politicians.
Some might assume that Los Angeles would be a Republican city considering the concentration of wealth. After all, that can lead to areas being more fiscally conservative. However, Los Angeles has voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1988 (and by a margin of at least 25 points since 1992).
Even North Los Angeles County, which for most of its history was a Republican stronghold, has voted Democratic in the last three elections.
LA’s Democratic makeup has sometimes been attributed to its art and entertainment scene, which is often liberal. Outer LA’s diversity also contributes to its progressive values. Los Angeles has a high POC and LGBTQ+ population who are much more likely to vote liberal. Research has consistently shown that the LGBTQ+ community is solidly aligned with the Democrat Party.
Richmond is another Bay Area liberal bastion, just 20 minutes outside of San Francisco. Its proximity to The Golden City makes it one of the most liberal cities in the country, taking its progressive influence from the arts and culture scene in the area.
Voters in Cost County, where Richmond sits, have voted Democratic in the last 15 presidential elections. In the 2020 presidential election, over 70% of voters cast their ballots for Joe Biden. Some other factors that swing Richmond to be more liberal are the high population of college-educated voters and the relatively young average age of the city.
By percentages alone, Inglewood is the most liberal city in California, with 74% of the population registered as Democrats. Of the remaining 26%, many have registered with the Green party and the Peace and Freedom Party. Both of these parties are considered more progressive than the Democratic Party and have some of the most left-leaning voters.
Inglewood is located in one of the most artistic areas of Los Angeles County, which also gives it more liberal clout. It has one of the biggest funding budgets for arts and culture in the US. That has drawn artists and performers from around the country.
San Jose is the third-largest city in California after Los Angeles and San Diego and, perhaps surprisingly, the most liberal out of the three. It is just south of San Francisco and has some of the same cultural and artistic influences as its neighbor.
San Jose is a technology hub of Silicon Valley. While employees of major tech companies can sometimes be fiscally conservative, they tend to vote Democratic. San Jose is the political seat for Santa Clara County. In the last presidential election, 72.6% of the county voted democratic, with a large portion of those votes coming from San Jose.
Compton has the second-highest percentage of Democrats (more than 70%) in California behind Inglewood. The city gets its liberal base from a few areas. It is located south of Downtown Los Angeles, so has some crossover from there. It also has a high black population, which is one of the most consistently Democratic bases in the country.
The city also has a vibrant arts and culture scene, especially through music. While rap is not always directly associated with liberal politics, many prominent rappers from Compton have emerged as political activists. Their causes often overlap with those of progressives and the Democratic Party.
Through rap and the local art scene, Compton has emerged as a politically active stronghold. Indeed, the city has influenced politics in other parts of California and the rest of the country.
Coachella is located in Riverside County, CA. It is, of course, best known for its world-renowned and social media-famous music festival each year. The popularity of the festival has brought many new residents to the city. That has made Coachella one of the fastest-growing cities in the country.
The arts and music scene has grown beyond Coachella. Its positive influence has helped contribute to more than 70% of the population being registered Democrats.
Interestingly, Riverside County leans Democratic in most elections. However, that is only by a relatively small margin of a few points. That’s because many other cities in the desert are more conservative.
Nevertheless, the growing population of artists, students, and professionals is changing these demographics considerably, cultivating a liberal influence over the entire region.
Soledad is a smaller city in the middle of California between San Francisco and Los Angeles, close to Monterey. It is in Monterey County, which is a strongly liberal county with almost 70% of the population voting for the Democratic Party consistently. Soledad is best known for its vineyards and proximity to Pinnacles National Park. That makes it a haven for progressives who love nature.
Soledad has a large population of professionals and artists, which has helped make it a popular destination for liberals.
Soledad and the surrounding areas have a lot of farmland, which often means a population of conservative voters. However, the farming in this region is still populated by liberals who perform sustainable and organic farming and vineyard practices.
California is a vibrant state with something to offer everyone. From desert towns turning into art havens to politically active Los Angeles suburbs to the artistic side of Silicon Valley, California has many liberal havens.
This list has brought you through ten of the most liberal cities in California spanning the entire state and explored a little of what each has to offer. Each city has a thriving community of liberal voters and is often accompanied by an educated and artistic population.
Whether you’re looking to break into tech, entertainment, or just want some peace and quiet in the desert, California has numerous places to consider.