Figuring out the ever-changing political landscape in the United States can be challenging. This is especially the case if you don’t have a firm grip on the country’s different political ideologies. In the US, states are typically divided into two groups, “liberal” and “conservative”.
Now, these big words can easily get confused, so to keep it simple, the liberal states are called “blue states”, and the conservative ones are “red states”. Generally speaking, political ideology in the US often lies along geographic lines. States on the West Coast and Northeast lean towards liberalism, while states in the Midwest and the South are likely to lean towards conservatism.
Some of these “blue” and “red” regions are among the most beautiful states in the United States. Before you visit, make sure you brush up on their political alignments, as these are big pointers of most of the population’s beliefs, values, and preferences.
Keep reading to find out about the most liberal states in the United States and which policies they back.
How the Most Liberal States in the United States Are Determined
Table of Contents
- How the Most Liberal States in the United States Are Determined
- 13 Most Liberal States in the United States
- 1. Massachusetts
- 2. Maine
- 3. Vermont
- 4. Washington
- 5. New York
- 6. New Hampshire
- 7. California
- 8. Hawaii
- 9. Oregon
- 10. Maryland
- 11. Connecticut
- 12. New Jersey
- 13. Illinois
- FAQs: Most Liberal States in the United States
- What Is the Least Liberal State in the US?
- What Is the Most Democratic State in the US?
- What Is the Most Republican State in the US?
- Most Liberal States in the United States | Wrapped Up
A liberal state is considered left-wing on the political spectrum. People in this kind of state prefer more government intervention and regulation. They strongly advocate for equal rights and social justice and want more subsidized services like universal healthcare.
On the other hand, a conservative state is mainly right-wing. People here want less government involvement and more individual freedom. They believe that the private sector should provide services, want more tax cuts, and tend to have traditional values that oppose legalizing abortion and same-sex marriages.
Today, I’ll focus on the liberal states and their left-leaning policies. These “blue states” are determined by the number of voters identifying as liberal as a percentage of the population.
13 Most Liberal States in the United States
Now that you have a general overview of the difference between liberalism and conservatism let’s dive into the most left-leaning states in the US and the policies that make them this way.
Note: There is a considerable amount of “moderate” voters across all states in the US. These people are usually the Kingmakers who can sway the state’s political ideology to either liberalism or conservatism.
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Liberalism: Highly Liberal – 35%
Massachusetts has come a long way from the notorious Salem Witch Trials. Today, the state is the most liberal in America. Outside of learning about the rich colonial history, there are many things to do in Massachusetts, including relaxing on the stunning Cape Cod beaches.
Getting back to liberalism, Massachusetts has a prominent history of progressive activism going all the way back to the 1770s. The Boston Tea Party was a direct protest to policies of British taxation in the North American colonies. And after all this time, Massachusetts voters still follow the progressive line, favouring policies like same-sex marriage and universal healthcare.
The state is home to many urban areas and has many college-educated residents. A staggering 40% of Massachusetts adults hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, which is higher than the national average, sitting at 30%. This high number of educated people is one factor that drives liberalist policies in the state.
But that’s not all. Massachusetts is also the home state of many famous politicians like the Kennedy’s, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Dukakis, and Jill Stein. That being said, Massachusetts also has a significant number of opposing sides, with 21% of voters identifying as conservative.
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Liberalism: Liberal – 33%
Maine’s political climate is a bit of an enigma. It ranks very high on this list, but the state has a bigger conservative population, with 35% of voters identifying as conservatives. Nonetheless, a lot of Maine’s residents still back progressive politics, like guaranteeing all adult citizens their voting rights, despite any criminal convictions or incarcerations they may have.
There are many unique things you’ll find in Maine – think Casco Bay, the Asticou Azalea Garden, and now the political paradox can be added to that list. Maine is America’s whitest and most rural state that does not always vote Republican.
History shows that the Republican Party is popular among rural, white voters who are largely not college-educated. The state’s more diverse and urban areas are where most people are likely to have at least an undergraduate degree, and they typically vote for the Democrats.
Maine’s political spectrum is as vibrant as its fall foliage. At this point, demographics are not a reliable indicator of how the votes will split between Republicans (conservatives) and Democrats (liberals). The state has a large number of moderate voters (29%). These people are neither liberal nor conservative; they lie somewhere in the middle.
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Liberalism: Highly Liberal – 32%
Vermont is a state you’ll barely hear about on mainstream media unless the topic is luxury skiing resorts. And it’s not surprising considering that Vermont is home to some of the snowiest cities in the United States.
But there’s more to this state than gorgeous ski slopes and scenic rolling mountains. Vermont is home to an open-minded population that drives it towards liberalism.
The state sets itself apart with its groundbreaking legislation that supports LGBTQIA+ rights. Massachusetts was the first state to legalise same-sex marriages in 2004, but Vermont was the first to do so without any pressure from court rulings.
It is the United States’ second whitest state, but unlike Maine, Vermont has stubbornly been in pursuit of social justice, equality, and compassionate governance. But this has not always been the case.
The state voted Republican every year from the party’s inception in 1854 to 1988, except for 1964 when Vermont went for Lyndon B. Johnson over Barry Goldwater. This Republican history explains why Vermont still has a significant conservative population at 28%.
Liberalism: Highly Liberal – 31%
Did you know that there was a 1969 law passed in Washington that made it illegal to kill Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch? No — well, I can’t say I blame you. Washington is known for many things, from national parks to pontoon bridges and the stunning natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.
Another interesting fact about Washington you may not know is that the state is very committed to liberal policies. The state strongly advocates for social welfare, LGBTQIA+ rights, and laws that protect the environment.
Urban cities like Seattle play a huge role in these progressive policies. You will find many aerospace and technology companies there, which attract plenty of college-educated people who often align with liberal viewpoints. These residents are also more likely to raise crucial issues like worker’s rights and climate change.
These policies have certified Washington’s reputation as a liberal state. But the state has a larger concentration of moderate voters, sitting at 37%. The number of conservative voters is much lower, with only 28%. So, if you’d like to relocate or visit a state with pro-liberalism views and amazing wineries, Washington is the place for you.
5. New York
Liberalism: Highly Liberal – 30%
New York is home to the world-renowned Statue of Liberty, so it would be a little awkward if it was not on this list. New York has many beautiful places, from Central Park and Times Square to Niagara Falls and the Adirondack Mountains.
And the state’s liberal policies have definitely made a contribution to the number of visitors to these landmarks.
New York’s urban and diverse population has also played a role in the state’s liberalist outlook. The state is an economic powerhouse that attracts thousands of immigrants, so the cultural exchange fosters an environment of social inclusion.
There is a substantial amount of arts, media, and academic institutions in New York, which has nurtured a population of forward-thinking and open-minded residents. But New York is not only high-rises and vibrant districts like Manhattan.
Upstate areas often vote for the conservative party, while the large metropolitan area usually votes liberal. That is why New York has a considerable number of conservative voters, making up 27% of the electorate.
6. New Hampshire
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Liberalism: Highly Liberal – 30%
New Hampshire is one of America’s little gems, with more than a thousand lakes and over 19,000 miles of rivers flowing throughout the state. It is home to an abundance of beaches, forests, and mountains. And its low crime rate easily makes it one of the safest vacation spots in the United States.
But its crime rate is not the only factor that attracts people to New Hampshire. The state upholds values that generally align with liberal ideals. New Hampshire has a well-educated and large urban population who tend towards liberalism.
Another factor that drives New Hampshire towards the left-wing is the presence of migrants, including international students and professionals. It’s worth noting that the state also has a considerable group of moderate (36%) and conservative (28%) voters. So, New Hampshire usually becomes a battleground state during most election cycles.
Liberalism: Liberal – 29%
California has many nicknames, one of them being “The Land of Milk and Honey”, because of the state’s numerous cows producing milk and honey-making bees. But this name is also relevant when looking at the state’s abundance of opportunities.
Many places in California, like Hollywood and Silicon Valley, attract many visitors and migrants seeking greener pastures, driving it towards left-leaning policies. But California has a long-standing history of progressive movements, like the 1960s Counterculture Revolution, which saw young people reject traditional and social norms.
The state was also one of the first to strongly advocate for LGBTQIA+ and women’s rights. Other drivers of liberalism in California include the state’s openness to climate change, immigration, and social welfare policies.
California is home to some of the most diverse cities in the United States, largely found in urban areas. This has nurtured an inclusive environment in the state, where different ethnic and minority groups foster conversations about social and environmental matters.
That being said, California’s largest political group are moderate voters, at 36%. And the conservatives do not fall behind the liberal voters, as they also make up 29% of the electorate.
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Liberalism: Highly Liberal – 28%
Hawaii has tons of attractions. Imagine beaches lined with white, pink, red, green, and even black sand to an abundance of water activities like kayaking. It’s not a surprise that this state scores high on any bucket list.
A commonly unknown fact about Hawaii, however, is that the state is left-leaning in its policies. Hawaii has an exceptional ethnic diversity. In fact, it is one of the most culturally heterogeneous states in the US. This creates an environment of inclusivity and social cohesion.
The high level of tolerance among Hawaii’s residents is a breeding ground for liberal views and policies. Large urban centres like Honolulu bring together these various ethnicities and facilitate a platform for an exchange of ideologies.
But like many other states with diverse populations, Hawaii also has residents on the opposite side of the political spectrum. The state boasts a 45% moderate voter base, and 22% fall under the conservative group.
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Liberalism: Liberal – 28%
Oregon is mostly known for its incredibly diverse landscape with lush forests, picturesque lakes, and bubbling hot springs. The state is not only a paradise for outdoor lovers but also a haven for residents with liberalist views.
Left-leaning policies, from healthcare accessibility to environmental preservation and social equality dominate the state’s legislature. It also has a long history of environmental activism. The state’s Oregon Bottle Bill of 1971 was actually the first of its kind in the US.
This environmental law was the first of many as Oregon proceeded to pass the Land Use Planning Law, the Protection for Hells Canyon Bill, and many more. Outside of protecting the environment, Oregon backs policies like the legalisation of marijuana and LGBTQIA+ rights.
Urban hubs like Portland have fostered a socially and environmentally conscious population.
While the high number of non-religious residents also edges the state towards a liberal tendency. Surprisingly, there are more conservative (32%) and moderate (35%) voters in Oregon. But that has not curbed the state’s dedication to overall social and environmental awareness.
Liberalism: Liberal – 28%
Maryland is home to some of the most beautiful towns in America, although the state is largely known for neighboring the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. This has significantly contributed to the state’s left-leaning policies, as many government-related institutions generally prefer Democratic values.
Urban cities like Baltimore and suburbs near the capital, like Potomac, have a high concentration of educated and diverse residents. As you can imagine, these residents are typically left-leaning. Maryland residents usually support laws that back legalising same-sex marriages, strict gun restrictions, and higher taxes.
The largest group of voters in Maryland fall on the moderate side, with 39%. The conservatives are not too far ahead of the liberal voters, with 29% of the electorate.
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Liberalism: Liberal – 27%
Connecticut’s perfect blend of coastal cities and rural areas makes it the best of both worlds. The state is famous for its vibrant fall colors and lush rolling hills in the countryside. But one thing you may not know about Connecticut is its tendency for left-leaning ideals.
The state has a history of industrialisation, from aerospace technology to shipbuilding. It’s also where the Fundamental Orders of 1639 were written and adopted. This is what many refer to as the first written constitution of a democratic government. So, liberalism is not new to Connecticut.
Connecticut is home to a number of research institutions and esteemed universities, attracting a large group of well-educated individuals who back liberal ideals. The state also has a diverse and successful population that places greater importance on factors such as education, social welfare, and environmental conservation.
The state’s proximity to Massachusetts (the most liberal state) is another contributing factor. Many intellectuals are drawn to these states, and their forward-thinking often aligns with liberalism.
Conservatives lead the liberalists in Connecticut with 30%, and the state’s self-proclaimed moderate voters make up 38%. But most of these moderate voters lean more towards liberalist views rather than conservative ones, hence the sway towards the left.
12. New Jersey
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Liberalism: Liberal – 27%
Sitting across the Hudson River from Lower Manhattan, New Jersey is a state many people love visiting and relocating to. It boasts stunning beaches, entertaining boardwalks, and a lot of unspoiled nature — New Jersey’s sunflower fields stand out. It also makes for a great escape from the hustle and bustle of New York City.
New Jersey’s policies strongly advocate for reproductive freedom, and there are many laws that protect residents against discrimination. The state’s population is diverse and well-educated, creating an environment of social and ethnic tolerance.
Due to its proximity to New York, the state also has a growing population of international students and professionals. This can be seen in the rich cultural diversity of New Jersey.
Although conservatives make up 29% of the electorate and moderate voters lead the pack at 37%, New Jersey is considered a stronghold of the Democratic Party. The state has backed the Democratic candidate in all presidential elections since 1992, and Democrats have run both state legislature chambers since 2004.
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Liberalism: Liberal – 27%
Illinois is a great place to start if you are on a quest to learn more about American history. It’s known for its key role in the abolition of indentured servitude. Illinois became the first state to ratify the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, freeing enslaved people.
But that’s not where liberalism ideals start (or end, for that matter) in Illinois. The state is home to numerous Underground Railroads which operated in the 19th century, before and during the Civil War.
Illinois was the last state to allow residents to carry a concealed weapon, showing its dedication to more liberal views that do not favor lax gun control laws. With California and New York, Illinois makes up the “big three” Democratic stronghold states.
The state’s urban centres, like Chicago, have a great ability to impose their own state legislature. So, they have considerable power to put the rights and well-being of their residents first. Moderate voters make up 36% of the electorate, while conservatives make up 31%.
FAQs: Most Liberal States in the United States
Here are a few commonly asked questions about the most liberal states in the US, as well as the split between conservatism and liberalism.
What Is the Least Liberal State in the US?
With over 50% of the electorate being self-identified conservatives, Mississippi is the least liberal state in the United States.
What Is the Most Democratic State in the US?
Beating the most liberal state, Massachusetts, Vermont is the country’s most democratic state with a Partisan Voter Index (PVI) of D+16. The state has been “blue” since 1992.
What Is the Most Republican State in the US?
Wyoming is the nation’s most Republican state, with a PVI of R+25. The state’s largely rural, white, and Evangelical population firmly tilts it towards conservatism. Wyoming has been voting Republican in every presidential election since 1952, with the exclusion of 1964.
Most Liberal States in the United States | Wrapped Up
All things considered, liberal states create an environment of social justice, equality, and progressive policies that uphold the rights of all citizens. Their culturally and ethnically diverse urban areas foster intellectual conversations that bring everyone’s opinions to the forefront.
The most liberal states in the United States have a high concentration of well-educated individuals who drive technological advancements and innovation. Their forward-thinking opens up lines of communication about uncomfortable topics like climate change, gun control laws, same-sex marriages, universal healthcare, and discrimination.
These states are more likely to have financially well-off individuals not opposed to higher taxes, as they know this will help the less fortunate and create a balanced economy. This financial equality may translate to less crime, homelessness, and illiteracy in the state.
Last but certainly not least, these urban populations are more likely to engage in global affairs and international relations, thanks to the state’s higher number of immigrants. Not only does this contribute to good relationships with neighboring countries, but it also assists with America’s relations with the rest of the world.
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