There’s just something about college towns that gives them a distinct, irreplaceable personality.
Perhaps it is the fact that these are the rare cities in which the student population often outweighs the number of actual city residents; maybe the overflowing of students caters well to the generally positive youthful atmosphere of the college town.
Or maybe it’s the fact that in most college towns, the residents are usually employed by the parent university. When the majority of the population either attends or works for the same few institutions, a feeling of singular pride comes to exist.
But perhaps more than anything else, most college towns are beacons of liberal, progressive, and forward-thinking culture.
For example, Ann Arbor gained famous headlines in the last few years for banning smoking at bus stops, leading to a city-wide progression towards ending public cigarette smoking.
Madison, Wisconsin is known not only as a college town with an incredibly liberal arts scene, it is also a hub of left-wing political ideology.
So what are the most liberal, forward-thinking college towns in America?
Considering ideology of the student and resident populace as well as notable liberal steps forward from the college town’s recent and more distant histories, we examine our top ten picks below.
10. College Park, MD
Home to the University of Maryland, College Park has been, historically, home to a wealth of liberal political happenings and controversies.
For example, the student body at the University of Maryland is famous for several times attempting to elect a University of Maryland student to the city council beginning as far back as 1993.
In 2009, the college succeeded by appointing 24 year-old doctoral student Marcus Afzali to the city council.
In 2014, Livability.com ranked College Park, MD as the 6th most liberal city in the country, ahead of Ann Arbor, MI and Newport, RI.
The last time a republican presidential candidate won the popular vote in College Park, MD? You’d have to go back to 1972, when nearly every city in the entire country voted in Richard Nixon.
9. Austin, TX
In a state known for its very conservative political ideologies and tendences, Austin is widely known as a haven for liberal politics and left-wing residents.
In addition to having one of the most notable music scenes in the US with its South by Southwest Music Festival, Austin is noted for its sense of environment preservation.
In 2012, Austin was one of the few cities in the entire state of Texas to ban the sale of plastic bags. Other conservationist movements and organizations have become hallmarks of Austin’s culture, including Hill Country Conservancy, which is dedicated to preserving quality of water and wildlife.
Like most liberal college towns, Austin has a downtown scene that is dominated by startup businesses as well as bars, music, and arts establishments. Sixth Street in Austin is one of the most famous music scenes in all of America.
Home to the University of Texas at Austin, Austin is among the most liberal cities in the entire US.
8. Cambridge, MA
Massachusetts is famously liberal; Cambridge, home to Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and other institutions of higher education, is no exception to this rule.
Known as a center for progressive research and academia, Cambridge is where many of the world’s most forward-thinking minds have once called home. 129 of the total 780 Nobel Prize winners have been, at one point in their careers, professionally affiliated with universities throughout Cambridge.
Certainly, this college town’s strongest liberally political card lies within its educational system – Lesley University, Harvard University, MIT, and other universities are the major employers in this city. As the employment scene is so strongly dominated by left-wing colleges, residents naturally identify with leftist ideologies.
Jokingly called the “People’s Republic of Cambridge” for being so politically liberal, Cambridge is a haven well-known for those wishing to stay out of the right.