Now Playing

Is San Francisco Still America's Most Liberal City?

An answer in three charts.


What's being measured: The percentage of votes that Democratic presidential candidates received in given counties over a 28-year period, whether or not they prevailed in the general election.

Weak link: No way to distinguish between voters who loved the nominee and those who just hated the other guy.

D’oh: In 1988, McDowell County, West Virginia, voted for Michael Dukakis over George H.W. Bush at a higher rate than San Francisco did.

(1 of 3)

What's being measured: The political beliefs of city residents, based on their political donations. (Oakland is most liberal.)

Weak link: Some donors hedge and give to both sides. Who knows what they really think?

D’oh: Crowdpac’s metric places chichi Martha’s Vineyard ahead of scruffy San Francisco. (And Archie Bunker is rolling over: The borough of Queens beats Oakland.)

(2 of 3)

What's being measured: Residents’ answers to policy questions, scored on a scale of liberal to conservative and averaged into a city total.

Weak link: Does San Francisco have the most hardcore liberals—or just a scarcity of conservatives?

D’oh: If you drop the population cutoff to 100,000, Berkeley beats S.F.

(3 of 3)


Editor's Note: This is one of many stories about politics that San Francisco is publishing over the next month, all part of the October 2016 Democracy Issue. To peruse the rest of the issue's contents, and to read stories as they become available online, click here.

In Ronald Reagan’s landslide defeat of Walter Mondale in 1984, San Francisco stuck out as a liberal bastion, one of the few places to vote overwhelmingly for the guy who vowed to raise taxes. In truth, Mondale’s biggest win wasn’t here—that honor fell to Washington, D.C.—but among big cities, San Francisco made the top five. Fast-forward three decades, and the city’s Democratic primary voters went for moderate Hillary over socialist Bernie. What gives? Have we lost our lefty mojo? Or does San Francisco still live up to its rep as America’s most liberal city?

We used three measures to evaluate San Francisco’s liberalness: We looked at the counties that vote most decisively for Democratic candidates, the cities whose residents’ donations skew the most Democratic, and polls that evaluate city residents’ political stances. The results (shown in the slideshow above) are clear: San Francisco has competition from Oakland and D.C., among others, but its heart still bleeds with the best of them.  

Originally published in the October issue of
San Francisco

Have feedback? Email us at
Email Lamar Anderson at
Follow us on Twitter @sanfranmag
Follow Lamar Anderson on Twitter @srslynow