“Blue states” are states that have a more liberal population and culture, as opposed to the conservative “red states.” While there are many more red states than blue states, the blue states tend to have much higher populations, so they have higher numbers in indexes like the electoral college and the number of congressional representatives.
There are also neutral states, usually referred to as “swing states” because these states could go either Democratic or Republican in an election. Candidates typically do most of their campaigning in the swing states, including Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Colorado, Nevada, and Florida.
The most liberal state in the country is Massachusetts, where the equally progressive city of Boston is located. Next is Hawaii, followed by Vermont, Washington, New York, New Hampshire, California, Maryland, New Jersey, and Maine. This index of how liberal a state is is based on how many liberals there are compared to conservatives.
Just like some states can be more liberal than others, some cities are more liberal than others. These cities tend to have high minority populations and public expressions of LGBTQ+ acceptance. The most liberal city is San Francisco, California, followed by Washington, DC; Seattle, Washington; Oakland, California; Boston, Massachusetts; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Detroit, Michigan; New York City, New York; Buffalo, New York; and Baltimore, Maryland. Notice that all of these cities are in blue states.
States can change from liberal to conservative over time due to factors like immigration, empowerment of minority groups (which tend to support liberal policies over conservative ones), and taxation. New York, for example, used to be highly conservative but is now much more progressive.
Below are the ten most liberal states in the United States. The data is based on a 2018 Gallup pull.
Massachusetts is the most liberal state in the U.S., with 35% of voters identifying as liberal. With 21% of voters identifying as conservative, Massachusetts has a liberal advantage of 14 points. Moderates are the largest group in Massachusetts, with 38% of the voting population identifying as moderate. In the 2016 presidential election, 60% of voters voted Democratic.
Massachusetts is also the home state of well-known politicians such as Elizabeth Warren, Michael Dukakis, Jill Stein, and the Kennedy’s. That state also has many urban areas and a highly educated population – two factors that strongly contribute to a liberal environment.
Maine is the second-most liberal state in the country. 33% of voters identify as liberal; however, the liberal advantage is -2 because 35% of voters identify as conservative. In the 2016 presidential election, 47.9% of Maine voted Democratic, while 44.9% voted Republican. Maine is one of the few states where moderates do not outnumber liberals or conservatives, with 29% of voters identifying as moderate.
Vermont is the third-most liberal state in the country, with 32% of voters identifying as liberal. With 28% of voters identifying as conservative, Vermont has a liberal advantage of 4 points, the third-highest country. 56.3% of Vermont voters voted Democratic in the 2016 election, while 30.3% voted Republican. In 2012, Barack Obama won Vermont by 35.6 percentage points.
Vermont is the home of Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist with very leftists views who ran for president unsuccessfully in 2016 and is running again in 2020. He received 71% of the vote in Vermont in 2016.
With 31% of voters identifying as liberal, Washington is the fourth-most liberal state in the United States. 28% of voters identify as conservative, giving Washington a liberal advantage of 3 points. Moderates have the largest percentage of voters, with 37%. In the 2016 presidential election, 52.5% of voters voted Democratic.
5. New York
New York is the fifth-most liberal state in the U.S. 30% of voters identify as liberal in New York versus 27% who identify as conservative, giving New York a 3-point liberal advantage. New York is geographically split, a majority of upstate areas vote conservative, and the larger metro areas vote liberal. In the 2016 presidential election, 59% of voters voted Democratic.
6. New Hampshire
New Hampshire is the sixth-most liberal state in a tie with New York at 30%. New Hampshire is 28% conservative, giving it a slightly less liberal advantage than New York of 2 points. In the 2016 presidential election, 46.8% of voters voted Democratic, only a 0.3% lead over those who voted Republican (46.5%).
California is the seventh-most liberal state in the United States. 29% of voters identify as liberal, and 29% identify as conservative, giving California a liberal advantage of zero points. 36% of voters in California identify as moderate. As the state with the most electoral votes, California’s vote is a big deal in elections. In the 2016 presidential elections, 61.5% of voters voted Democratic, a 30% lead over the Republican vote.
Oregon is the eighth-most liberal state in the country, with 28% of voters identifying as liberal. Oregon has a liberal advantage of -4 points due to 32% of voters identifying as conservative; however, 35% of voters identify as moderate. In the 2016 presidential election, 50.1% of voters voted Democratic while 39.1% voted Republican. The most Democratic areas of the state were around Eugene and Portland.
In a tie with Oregon is Maryland, which also has 28% of voters identifying as liberal. Maryland voters are 29% conservative, giving the state a -1 point liberal advantage. The largest group of voters is moderate, at 39%. Most of Maryland’s liberal base is in the Washington D.C. metro area and Baltimore. In the 2016 presidential election, 60.3% of voters voted Democratic.
Maryland legalized gay marriage, pushed for major gun restrictions, and imposed tax increases, among other progressive policies.
Hawaii is tied with both Maryland and Oregon has the eighth-most liberal state in the United States. 28% of voters in Hawaii identify as liberal, and 22% identify as conservative, giving Hawaii a liberal advantage of 6 points, the second-highest in the country. Moderates are the largest group in Hawaii, with 45% of voters identify as moderate, which is also the largest percentage of any state in the country. In 2016, 62.2% of Hawaii voters voted Democratic in the presidential election.
The top ten most liberal urban areas in the United States, starting with the most liberal city in America, include the following:
- San Francisco, California
- Washington, District of Columbia
- Seattle, Washington
- Oakland, California
- Boston, Massachusetts
- Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Detroit, Michigan
- New York, New York
- Buffalo, New York
- Baltimore, Maryland