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Mesa, Ariz., is to conservatism what San Francisco is to liberalism

Romney supporters at a rally at the Mesa Amphitheater in 2012. (via Gage Skidmore)

Mesa, Ariz., is the most conservative big city in the country, according to a study of representation in municipal government that included the 51 U.S. cities with at least a quarter of a million residents.

The study explores the policy preferences of citizens and compares them to city’s policies to determine whether there was 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 will be published in the American Political Science Review.

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

Municipal governments have long been thought to be less responsive to their citizens’ political views than national or state governments, but the study found this wasn’t the case. Even cities with governments designed to be less partisan, with institutions like 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. The baseline in the graphic below represents the average citizen, estimated from a sample, and only 11 of the 51 cities fall right of that line. The bar for each city represents uncertainty.

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

Hunter Schwarz covers the intersection of politics and pop culture for the Washington Post

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