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    Neighborhoods: Uncovering Seattle's hidden conservatives and true-blue liberals

    There's a surprisingly wide diversity in opinion and voting.

    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.

    Most Liberal

    5. Wallingford

    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)

    3. Fremont

    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)

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    Posted Wed, Feb 12, 7:09 a.m. Inappropriate

    This is some C-grade propaganda from the state democrats. In so many words it falsely posits that voting for tax increases is liberal behavior. That premise is false because the democrats here – unlike elsewhere in the country – push regressive taxes via ballot measures. Voting for sales tax hikes and car tab tax hikes is the antithesis of liberal behavior. Liberals work to level the playing field, not increase the gap between rich and poor by targeting the individuals and households with the least economic means with taxes that cause disproportionately heavy financial impacts.

    The democrats here are pushing a sales tax and car tab tax hike in April. That's why we're seeing this kind of propaganda now. The impressionable minds reading Crosscut are supposed to buy in to this false paradigm: “All tax hikes are liberal!”

    The following piece is interesting, it points out some aspects of how the "liberal/conservative" labels are used as a tool to confuse and bore readers:


    Here's a taste:

    [I]t seems that there is no issue in the world that the industrialized western democracies cannot reduce to a simplistic paradigm of “liberal” vs “conservative.” In fact, this point has been so hardwired into the modern political system that it has been distilled into a childlike shorthand: political positions are “left” or “right,” “blue” or “red.”


    Posted Wed, Feb 12, 3:32 p.m. Inappropriate

    "...a tool to confuse and bore readers" I don't find much to be confusing. And boring?...more like tiresome. I have learned over the years that I can scan the commenters names and predict what they'll have to say. It will not be thoughtful. It will be always be argumentative.


    Posted Wed, Feb 12, 10:40 a.m. Inappropriate

    As a North Beacon Hill resident (for 34 yrs), it is not surprising that the author found South Beacon Hill to be one of the top five conservative neighbourhoods. Anytime you have a large number of first generation immigrants, you will find a very conservative community. Just check out the demographics.

    Posted Wed, Feb 12, 1 p.m. Inappropriate

    Dear Crossrip,

    I am about as liberal as they come and I vote for the regressive taxes just about every time. Why? Because we can't seem to get any other kind passed around here. I would love to dump the sales tax and go to only having an income tax like OR but that never has a chance so I am reduced to voting for regressive taxes because there are no other options to fund the programs and things I support like buses and schools.


    Posted Wed, Feb 12, 1:36 p.m. Inappropriate

    So you vote for taxes to make our most-regressive-in-the-country state/local taxing structure worse? Is that because you want to cause additional undue financial impacts on the least well off members of our community, or is it that you just don't care?

    Let's see -- the idea of increasing the gap between the rich and the poor appeals to you . . . is that it?

    You certainly are not "as liberal as they come" if you vote for higher sales taxes or car tab taxes. Has anyone referred to you as "self-delusional" in other contexts? Keep your ears open for that.

    The only reason the democrats who have been in charge of taxing structures in this state for the past generation authorize regressive taxes is that they like them. They tax like sociopaths because they are deliberately indifferent to the impacts of those policies on less well off households. Don't believe me? Just ask them.

    You are a tool, used by policy makers who know better. I can't change your behavior. Apparently you have been conditioned to believe there is a need to make our regressive taxing structure worse, and you are willing to suspend reason and disregard the reality of how the peers fund government services to continue your reflexive "yes" voting. There always will be a cohort like you.

    The democrats here could do what their peers do: employ progressive revenue-raisers. Progressive taxes would make sense. Those would include corporate and high-earner income taxes, business payroll taxes, capital gains taxes (over an appropriate threshold), taxes on commercial property development and sales, etc.

    Those options are available, the democrats in our state just don't like them.

    You try explaining it -- why do the democrats always pimp higher regressive taxes, despite the fact that we have the most regressive taxing structure in the country?


    Posted Wed, Feb 12, 10:17 p.m. Inappropriate

    Yes indeedie. Vote against regressive taxes to fund schools, transit, you-name-it, because stopping regressive tax increases will make our tax system fairer and more progressive. Thank you Crossrip for your stellar enlightenment.

    Posted Thu, Feb 13, 11:51 a.m. Inappropriate

    We tried a state income tax that would have leveled the playing field. Those who didn't vote against it because they have a knee-jerk response to any called a tax, voted against it because after getting screwed by the regressive system for their entire lives, they simply don't believe in tax legislation making anything more fair. They don't trust it.

    In the end, this is driven by the simple fact that we don't know what government pays for today, and we don't know how much it should cost. So we just argue about ideology.


    Posted Thu, Feb 13, 3:28 p.m. Inappropriate

    this is driven by the simple fact that we don't know what government pays for today, and we don't know how much it should cost. So we just argue about ideology.

    This "we" you reference repeatedly -- is that you and the voices in your head?

    Most people know how other states finance public services, and can compare how it's done elsewhere with how it is done here. If they don't know they can look to any number of sources for that information. For example, the following two links demonstrate how the taxing structure here is abnormal because because it designed to impact the individuals and families here with the least means with such heavy adverse financial impacts, while simultaneously not targeting the wealthy and corporations nearly as much as is done in other states:




    As to your other point, the fact that the flawed income tax initiative several years ago was defeated in no way supports your argument (that people don't believe tax legislation can make things more fair). If the state legislature imposed any number of progressive taxes people would understand they were plenty fair. Take taxes on the values of commercial property developments and sales of commercial properties. People would understand those were plenty fair. Disagree? Those kinds of taxes are used by the state legislature in Albany to pay for transit in NYC, and they should be used by the state legislators in Olympia to pay for transit in the Puget Sound region. Businesses are the primary beneficiaries of bus and train service.

    What is it about progressive taxing for transit that you object to?


    Posted Thu, Feb 13, 12:13 p.m. Inappropriate

    Also, arguments like yours suffer from one of the most consistently magical of the many examples magical thinking in the modern conservative movement - namely that de-funding government is the same thing as reforming it.

    The ONLY immediate, definitive effect of voting against revenue to support a common good is that there is no or less common good. We don't pay the money for the thing and we don't get the thing.

    You'd have to ignore 30 years of precedent to assume that somehow, voting against a regressive tax will result in a re-structuring of the tax system to get the revenue from a less regressive source. Just never happens at a grand scale. If anything, they go get revenue from a less CONTROVERSIAL source. But mostly, we've just been cutting. We pay for less higher ed than we did 30 years ago. We pay for so little education that our Supreme Court says its ILLEGAL.

    But I suspect this is a red herring. I don't believe you give a fig about the regressive nature of our tax code. You just less because less is better. I suspect you don't want reform. You just want it cheaper.


    Posted Thu, Feb 13, 3:41 p.m. Inappropriate

    Now you're just arguing against what you wish my positions were. You're constructing straw-man arguments and attributing them to me. That's lame.

    de-funding government is the same thing as reforming it

    Nobody's talking about de-funding government. I'm arguing the state/local taxing structure is based on excessive regressive taxing, and that situation should not be made worse by the new transit tax measure the democrats authorized several years ago in Olympia and now want the local democrats to push via an April ballot measure to hike sales taxes and car tab taxes.

    The ONLY immediate, definitive effect of voting against revenue to support a common good is that there is no or less common good.

    That's not true. The state legislature could impose additional taxes to meet Metro's needs IF such additional taxing in fact is necessary. Your credibility now is nil.


    Posted Sat, Feb 15, 7:48 a.m. Inappropriate

    You dramatically (and intentionally?) overstate the power of Dems in this state/county/city to rebalance the tax structure from regressive to progressive. If you hadn't noticed, there are strong, well funded conservative political interests here too, and while they my not be able to set the political agenda, they have a lot of power to block and undermine measures that they do not like. Blaming the person who got tripped for falling down while ignoring the rascal who tripped him... sounds like the same tactic that the conservatives have been using against the President.


    Posted Sat, Feb 15, 10:34 a.m. Inappropriate

    The democrats have called the shots for all aspects of taxing policy at both the state and the local levels around here for over a generation. If you believe otherwise, identify some state or local taxing legislation that the democrats did not sanction. That's an empty set. Moreover, the "R" party was perfectly happy to play along with all the democrats' regressive tax authorizations and impositions during that period.

    The democrats were in complete control of the state legislature when the exclusively-regressive tax authorizing statutes for local bus and train services providers were authorized (in 1992, 2000 and 2005-2007 -- the latter years are when the sales tax and car tab tax authority were delegated to TBDs). Moreover, the democrats were in complete control at the local level when all the sales tax and car tab tax hikes for transit were imposed around here over the past 25 years. Finally, the "R" party is just as inclined to hike regressive taxes as the democrats -- the rich and wealthy corporations pay very little of those.

    The democrats could make the taxing structure here more fair now. The base of the "R" party is narrow in this state, and because it has wants it could be required to compromise by accepting the levels of progressive taxing to which its peers in the rest of the nation are subjected.

    Disagree with any of this? Explain yourself.


    Posted Wed, Feb 12, 3:21 p.m. Inappropriate

    Is there is such a thing as a conservative leftist?

    Because there are only Liberals, Progressives, Social Democrats, Greens and Communists residing between 145th Street and Roxbury Streets.

    Right of center and conservatives viewpoints are not welcome there.

    Posted Wed, Feb 12, 3:38 p.m. Inappropriate

    "They are followed by the full ranking of all 92 neighborhoods."

    I don't see this list until I realized it's on a separate page. You might want to change reference wording.

    Thanks for analysis. I have some issues with the "liberal<==>conservative" meme, but overall your rankings seems pretty logical.


    Posted Thu, Feb 13, 6:54 a.m. Inappropriate

    It should not be surprising that poorer neighborhoods often vote against tax increases and levies. They cannot afford them. On other bases they may be "liberal" or "conservative" on the author's scale.
    Poor and immigrant neighborhoods also historically have been more conservative on social and lifestyle issues. People living there understandably are most concerned with earning a living, public safety, public transportation, and other aspects of homely daily life.

    Posted Mon, Feb 17, 12:41 a.m. Inappropriate

    Lake City is not exactly a rich neighborhood, and I'm not exactly the richest resident of that neighborhood. However, I and many other poor people in Lake City have indeed voted for tax increases and levies, because poor as we are, we're willing to be taxed for services. Services are what make "homely daily life" bearable.

    Your "people living there" phrase is a bit patronizing, Td.


    Posted Mon, Feb 17, 7:28 a.m. Inappropriate

    "sarah90" is male, 40, and makes $110k per year. He is employed by a PR firm ATU Local #587 hired to pimp the county's April ballot measure to hike regressive taxes.


    Posted Thu, Feb 13, 11:48 a.m. Inappropriate

    People in S. Beacon and Rainier View vote against taxes because our taxes are regressive and they can't afford them. I live in SE Seattle, and I can tell you the opposition I hear is simple pocket book realities combined with a total distrust that the tax system will ever be fair to them. Tell them that you'll cut their taxes and raise them on rich people, and they don't believe it. They've been getting screwed by our tax system for decades and simply don't believe what people tell them anymore.

    But putting them in the same category with Magnolia and Madison Park? Please. What a bunch of hooey.

    Your average S. Beacon or Rainier View voter votes against taxes precisely because of how DIFFERENT they are from Magnolia and Madison Park. Tax policy benefits the rich because the rich have the power and influence. They vote against taxes because they have been getting screwed by the moneyed and powerful (Madison Park and Magnolia) for their entire lives.


    Posted Fri, Feb 14, 6:10 a.m. Inappropriate

    maybe..i'm off but isn't a rather big change coming and therefore being ignored(omitted with purpose)I'm of coarse referring to the outset of this tripe..our city is about to be divided..and thereby political power centralized..what we are seeing here is Crosscut choosing sides..notice the headline suggests one thing, but the nice shiny pictures deliver another..while dividing the city into the writer's(??)subjective..and not to the coming reality..sounds like a choise has been made..some animals are more equal..

    Posted Mon, Feb 17, 1:41 p.m. Inappropriate

    If you mean district council elections: "our city is about to be divided..and thereby political power centralized" -- huh? Political power is currently largely centralized now. How do district elections make it worse?


    Posted Tue, Feb 18, 4:37 p.m. Inappropriate

    I do and the term divide and conquer comes to mind..when you check the map of our new districts ask yourself..why are these things counter clockwise? and who choose where to put the one..take a hard look at the boundaries and ask yourself..will adjective seattle still get the preference..some animals remain more equal..

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