There is surprising dissent in our famously progressive city, as an in-depth analysis of Seattle’s political geography recently showed. My data for that story (and the corresponding maps) were based on voting precincts, small sub-units maintained for electioneering purposes. Of course, most people think of their city’s geography in terms of another unit — the neighborhood.
So, I broke all 951 Seattle precincts into 93 neighborhoods using the City Clerk’s Atlas, public maps and a little horse sense. Results for 47 significant ballot items since 2008 — partisan votes (favoring Democrats), social issues (such as same-sex marriage and aid in dying), tax measures and local races — were combined to create an overall index of liberalism. Each of our neighborhoods was scored on an index running from 0 (most conservative) to 100 (most liberal).
These results indicate Seattle has some truly devoted quarters of consistent progressivism, a few enclaves with surprisingly conservative tendencies and a lot of eclectic and quirky political communities in between.
Here’s a countdown of Seattle’s top 5 most liberal and conservative ‘hoods, followed by the most average of all neighborhoods. They are followed by the full ranking of all 92 neighborhoods.
Gas Works Park in Wallingford. Wildcat Dunny / Flickr
Known principally as the U-District and Fremont’s sleepier, family-friendly cousin, Wallingford is no slouch when it comes to progressivism. The neighborhood’s social liberalism probably comes as no surprise. This is, after all, the epicenter of sort of voters often stereotyped as “latte liberals.” What’s more impressive is Wallingford’s commitment to progressive ideals that many assume might make the Whole Foods crowd balk. Despite its relative wealth, the neighborhood routinely supports progressive taxation measures, like the ill-fated 2010 high-earners income tax, and it’s harder to find an area more allergic to Tim Eyman proposals.
Overall score: 82 (5th most liberal of 93)
Partisanship: 82 (10th of 93)
Social issues: 82 (4th)
Tax issues: 79 (2nd)
Local races: 66 (12th)
4. Central District
Catfish Corner at Cherry and MLK Way in the Central District. Rob Ketcherside / Flickr
Gentrification is a complicated political issue, morally and politically. The exodus of African-Americans from the Central District may have been a socio-cultural sea change, but it has hardly made a blip in partisan politics. The Central District is Seattle’s most partisan neighborhood, delivering Mitt Romney a crushing 21-to-1 defeat. On local candidate races, the CD tends to lean even further to the left than Capitol Hill. Socialist Alternative city council candidate Kshama Sawant, for instance, had her best showing here, netting 71% compared to her 69% on Cap Hill. The CD’s new residents have also made it among the city’s more socially progressive neighborhoods, delivering a resounding 86% for same-sex marriage.
Overall score: 84 (4th most liberal of 93)
Partisanship: 93 (1st)
Social issues: 75 (19th)
Tax issues: 78 (6th of 93)
Local races: 84 (2nd of 93)
Bikers take part in Fremont's annual Solstice Parade. Dave Lichterman / Flickr.
The “Center of the Universe” has a kooky, crunchy reputation that doesn’t quite match its demographics. Today’s Fremont is more white-collar than hemp t-shirt. Still, the neighborhood — from its professional home owners to young apartment-dwellers — boasts a fiercely progressive ideology. In fact, in 2012, Fremont threatened to out-vote Capitol Hill on both same-sex marriage and pot legalization. It would be absurd to suggest the neighborhood’s Lenin statue is any sort of political endorsement, but it does show a neighborhood that isn’t shy about making its open-mindedness evident.
Overall score: 85 (3rd of 93)
Partisanship: 84 (8th of 93)
Social issues: 88 (2nd)
Tax issues: 82 (3rd)
Local races: 78 (6th)
Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!