Pittsburgh is nation's 19th-most liberal city, study finds


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The Steel City leans, if even just a bit, further left than the Mile High City. Yes, you read that right, er, correctly.

Pittsburgh is the 19th-most liberal city in the U.S. among cities with populations larger than 250,000, according to a recent study of public policy preferences. Philadelphia is 16th.

“It’s a confirmation that in a place like Pennsylvania, the urban cores of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia remain also the liberal and Democratic cores of the state,” said Chris Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion in Allentown, Pa.

He called the metros “the darkest blue in a purple state.”

Each city was given a numeric designation. Pittsburgh received a -0.49, when the average American is seen as a 0, by the ranking, which determined how liberal a city was based on seven academic surveys. Those surveys sought people’s views on issues such as abortion, the Affordable Health Care Act and same-sex marriage.

There weren’t any big surprises in the survey, said co-author Christopher Warshaw, assistant professor of political science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Most cities are more liberal, and more conservative people typically can be found in small cities in states such as Arkansas, Texas and Utah, the study showed.

“A city is never as liberal or conservative as the most liberal or conservative person there,” Mr. Warshaw said.

San Fransisco was furthest left, at a -1.0, and Mesa, Ariz., was most conservative among large cities, coming in at 0.41.

The review of cities was part of a study, Representation in Municipal Government, released in March by Mr. Warshaw and Chris Tausanovitch, an assistant professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The study examined the “relationship between the policy preferences of the mass public and municipal policy outcomes.”

In Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh is less liberal than Harrisburg and Philadelphia. Erie, Lancaster and Reading are all more liberal than average, the study says.

Pennsylvania Democratic Committee Chairman Jim Burn said Pittsburgh and Philadelphia’s rankings surprised him, but he’s not ready to call it a blue state.

“We’re getting bluer, and I like that,” he said.

So where’s a conservative person to go if they still want a city and a Sheetz nearby?

Altoona, which isn’t quite as conservative as Anaheim, Calif., but it’s close.

Even that might not be red enough for them. The city comes in at a just-right 0.14.

Lexi Belculfine: lbelculfine@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1878. Twitter: @LexiBelc.


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