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Study: SF Is Getting Ever So Slightly More Conservative

No, it's not because they cancelled Looking.


Voters who have moved to the city recently are turning out to be more conservative on local ballot measures than residents who have been here longer, according to a new study by political consultant David Latterman. It's a shift that San Francisco's political class has suspected, but hard evidence has been scant—until now.

Latterman, who works for moderate candidates and office holders, used methods developed by SF State professor Rich DeLeon, the author of Left Coast City and the most-widely respected authority on the history of San Francisco's progressivism. (Point being: Their biases cancel out.)

Using data on the voting outcomes at the precinct level for fourteen different ballot initiatives from 2012 to 2014, Latterman found that the distribution of left and further left voters in the city has remained constant since De Leon ran the numbers in 2004. The city's progressives are concentrated in the center, in neighborhoods like the Tenderloin, the Mission, the Haight, and Bernal Heights. Less liberal voters, by contrast, ring around them, with the Sunset District and the Marina being home to the most conservative voters on local issues. That's not news.

What is, however, is that Latterman has found evidence that voters who have moved to the city more recently are voting more conservatively than their neighbors: "Newer residents in San Francisco, especially in District 6, vote more conservatively than the longer‐residence voters around them. While this has been noted anecdotally and in some ballot measure results, this is some of the first strong quantitative evidence for this trend." (District 6, represented by Jane Kim on the Board of Supervisors, includes Soma, parts of the Tenderloin, Mission Bay, and part of Market Street.)

A few caveats are important here: The data doesn't compare San Francisco to the Bay Area, the state, or the nation, so it's not capable of saying where San Francisco is moving ideologically relative to the rest of the world. It also excludes a few ballot measures that passed with such high margins that they were not indicative of a left-right split. That includes a few bond measures, but also the proposition that nixed construction at 8 Washington, though the data does include the later ballot measure that tightened building restriction along the waterfront in general.

Perhaps most importantly, as the report points out, it's not as if SF is GOP territory: "To anyone outside of San Francisco politics, it's really just left vs. more left."


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