San Francisco’s political opposite? Mesa, Arizona

Mesa, Arizona, is the most conservative big city in the country, according to a study of representation in municipal governments that included the 51 U.S. cities with at least 250,000 residents.

The study explored citizens’ policy preferences and compared them with their cities’ policies to determine whether there is a relationship. The most liberal cities spend more than twice as much per capita, have higher taxes per capita and have less regressive tax systems than the most conservative cities, the study found. It was conducted by Chris Tausanovitch of UCLA and Christopher Warshaw of MIT and is to be published in the American Political Science Review.

Mesa, for example, has taxes of $390 per capita and spends $1,418 per capita, compared with the most liberal city, San Francisco, which has taxes of $2,996 per capita and spends $6,031 per capita, Tausanovitch said.

Municipal governments have long been thought to be less responsive to their citizens’ political views than national or state governments, but the study found that this wasn’t the case. Even cities with governments designed to be less partisan, with institutions such as nonpartisan elections and professional managers instead of elected mayors, are in line with residents’ political beliefs.

Unsurprisingly, America’s big cities tend to be liberal.

Behind Mesa, the most conservative cities are Oklahoma City, Virginia Beach, Colorado Springs and Jacksonville, Florida. San Francisco is the most liberal, followed by Washington; Seattle; Oakland, California; and Boston.

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