Is Fort Collins Colorado liberal or conservative?

Fort Collins and Boulder Colorado are the most liberal in a deep red state. The city is considered blue, especially if you compare it to the rest of Colorado, but is that correct? This article will examine some key data about Fort Collins and its voting patterns to determine whether or not it is more liberal than other cities in conservative nicknamed the “Colorful Colorado.”

This article will look at data from the last few years, to give a good sense of how Ft Collins has voted in recent elections. I am not going to go back further than 2008 because that is when Obama was elected president; Obama polarized US politics and the split between red and blue states became deeper. Before 2008 there was less of a “fault line” between the red and blue states so there is little value in looking at voting patterns that far back.

Barack Obama in 2008

Obama carried Fort Collins with 57.25% of the vote, compared to McCain’s 41.68%. Boulder also went strongly for Obama, whereas Fort Collins was only moderately more liberal than the rest of Colorado.

This election was, roughly, a repeat of 2004; Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry carried Fort Collins with 52% of the vote. George W Bush won most of Colorado and all of its electoral votes.

The picture in 2010 was different; Obama lost ground from 2008 to 2010 in Fort Collins as well as nationally. He received 49% compared to 48.2% for Republican challenger Mitt Romney (R-Mass). The remaining 2% went to Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney (D-GA). This does not seem like much, but it had major consequences — Democrats were swept out of Congress that year and the Republicans gained control over the House of Representatives — energizing their base for the following off years’ races. The map below shows the 2010 vote for the US House of Representatives. A close look at Colorado will reveal that Fort Collins, Boulder, and a few nearby districts are the only blue dots in an ocean of red.

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Looking at Colorado as a whole, Democrats do indeed have an advantage. It is about one-third Democratic, one-third Republican, and one-third independent/other in the last few presidential elections. That means that even though Fort Collins was not the most liberal area in Colorado in 2008 (Boulder) or 2012 (several Denver suburbs like Cherry Hills and Columbine), it does have a large number of Democrats compared to Republicans.

Fort Collins’ voting was closer to 50/50 than Boulder’s and its political views overall are more in line with Boulder than Denver itself; especially when examining issues other than voting for president — where candidates are often proxies for positions on social issues like abortion rights and gay marriage. It also seems important to note that Fort Collins’ political views are not very different from Colorado in general; Fort Collins is, on average, more liberal but the gap between itself and most of Colorado is not particularly large.

The information above takes us halfway to our goal — it tells us how liberal or conservative Fort Collins is compared to other areas in the state. However, that does not tell us whether Fort Collins is more liberal than Boulder, a city that many consider extremely liberal.

Other cities in Colorado

Looking at cities other than Boulder and Fort Collins, the state voted for McCain with 51% of the vote. Other cities are not as blue as Boulder or Fort Collins, but are more liberal than the rest of Colorado; there is a pattern developing here.

The most conservative city in Colorado is Pueblo. It voted for Obama with 49% of the vote, albeit he did carry all three counties surrounding it — Teller, El Paso, and Fremont (Census map) — by narrow margins. The only other town that gave him over 45% was Erie (51%).

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