Is Boise, Idaho a Liberal City?

The wonderful state of Idaho is known for being one of the most conservative states in the nation. However, many of the capitols and major cities of otherwise conservative states are more liberal in nature. Does this ring true for Boise, Idaho’s capital?

While perhaps not as liberal as other state capitols, Boise, Idaho is a liberal city. However, when compared to the rest of Idaho, Boise is often considered a contrasting blue island in a red sea, as the great majority of Idaho leans heavily conservative.

Even though Boise is considered a liberal city, especially by citizens of Idaho, there is no need to be alarmed. Boise is nothing like Los Angeles or other big cities and capitals.

How Liberal is Boise?

When discussing political orientation, it’s important to remember that things are not purely black and white or hot and cold. A person or place is not just liberal or just conservative. There exists a spectrum between liberal and conservative to better map out where people lie.

Idaho, as a state, lands very far on the conservative side of this spectrum. A great majority of the residents in Idaho vote Republican and hold conservative beliefs.

Additionally, in the state of Idaho, all five statewide elected offices, both of its seats in the House of Representatives, and both of its seats on the U.S. Senate are all held by Republicans. Republicans also hold a super-majority in both the Idaho House and Senate.

Idaho has only voted for a Democrat once in its history: Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. Even with a massive influx of people from liberal states and cities, that hasn’t changed at all.

If anything, Idaho has become even more conservative than it once was.

As can be seen, it would be quite easy for someone to consider anything to be liberal when held up to those kinds of blood-red standards.

When compared to the rest of the state, Boise would definitely be considered a liberal city. However, when compared to other big cities and state capitols, such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Portland, Boise is nowhere near as liberal as those areas.

However, despite the contrast between Boise and the rest of the state being so stark making the city appear perhaps more liberal than it really is, the city is indeed a liberal-leaning city and has a more liberal population than the rest of the state.

What Makes Boise Liberal?

Typically, when analyzing whether a city is to be considered liberal or conservative, there is more to analyze than simply just voting patterns. Voting patterns are great, but they don’t tell the whole tale.

As such, we will be looking at Boise from the following viewpoints:

  • Voting patterns
  • The mayor
  • Recent laws, policies, and mandates
  • Other miscellaneous factors that impact the political leaning of the city

By looking at Boise from a number of viewpoints, we will be much more likely to have a deeper understanding of just how liberal Boise really is and what makes it that way.

Voting Patterns

Looking at and comparing the overall voting patterns of Idaho and Ada County (the county in which Boise is located) is quite telling as to the political standings of Boise’s population.

In the last U.S. election (Trump V. Biden), the state of Idaho voted 63.8% in favor of Trump and 33.1% in favor of Biden. Only 3 counties voted in favor of Biden, and in very few of the rest of the counties did the votes for Trump dip below 70%.

The Ada County, Boise’s county, also voted in favor of Trump, but at a 50.3% margin. Joe Biden trailed close behind at 46.4%.

So, while perhaps not the most liberal area in Idaho, Ada County definitely is not near as conservative as the rest of the state. However, Boise is definitely the epicenter of Ada County’s liberal population. This fact is made especially clear with the recent election of Boise’s new mayor, Mayor McLean.

The Mayor

When people complain about Boise being liberal, one of the biggest targets they take a shot at is Boise’s new mayor, Lauren McLean.

Inaugurated as Boise mayor on January 7th, 2020, Lauren McLean is the first woman to be elected as mayor of Boise. Though the mayoral race is a non-partisan race, Mayor McLean is a registered Democrat, which was public knowledge. She won with 65% of the votes in her favor.

A publicly Democratic candidate winning with 65% of the votes is a testament to Boise’s more liberal population.

Mayor McLean is often labeled as liberal by conservative citizens. Many of her policies and viewpoints have been the subject of their criticism.

Recent Laws, Policies, and Mandates

One of the more controversial actions taken by Mayor McLean was the Mask Mandate that came into place during the quarantine for Covid-19.

Mask usage is a hot topic among people these days, and the conservatives believe in giving citizens the choice to wear masks rather than the liberals forcing people to wear masks through government legislation and mandates.

The Mask Mandate in Boise required anyone in public to wear a cloth mask, disposable or otherwise, to prevent the spread of the virus, at a penalty of a fine. Naturally, this spurred a huge uprising among the conservative population, leading to protests in front of Mayor McLean’s residence.

Another policy that has drawn the scrutinizing eye of the conservative population is Mayor McLean’s push to make Boise a much greener city, a common falling-out point between liberals and conservatives.

Boise also exists as the epicenter for the push to legalize marijuana in the state of Idaho. Marijuana is not currently legal, but work is being done to make it so.

Other Factors

Boise is a big city…

…at least by Idaho standards.

Big cities tend to attract a more liberal-leaning population; hence why many of the nation’s capitols and big cities tend to be liberal. Boise does not escape this, even in a conservative state.

Boise’s night life, festivals, and liberal arts are also a huge attraction to a more liberal population.

Boise State University

Boise is the proud home of the acclaimed Boise State University.

What does Boise State University have to do with Boise’s political tendencies?

Well, Boise State University tends to bring in many liberal instructors, who often extend their influence outside of the university. Additionally, Boise State brings in many students from outside the state who also lean to the left.

Is Boise Going to Become More Liberal as Time Goes On?

One of the concerns that many Idaho residents have is the immigration of people from California, Oregon, and Washington to Idaho. The exodus began in roughly 2019 and has increased greatly since then.

Idahoans worry that this exodus into their state will bring in the same people and political beliefs that caused the downfalls of the cities they are escaping.

However, this is simply not the case. An increase in population, even from liberal areas such as California, is not causing the state to turn bluer.

In fact, there was an increase of over 200,000 registered Republican voters over the last 6 years, as opposed to a growth of only 52,000 more Democrats. (SourceOpens in a new tab.) So, if anything, Idaho is becoming redder and redder.

Does this hold true for the state’s capitol? While the answer to that question can be a little tricky, I’d like to answer: No.

I firmly believe that, while Boise is indeed a blue island in a sea of red, with the expansion happening and an influx of people, the blue will slowly turn slightly purple. I think Boise will get a bit more conservative, rather than more liberal.

Idahoans are definitely protective of their freedoms and their land. This can definitely be shown in the counter-protests that happened during the Black Lives Matter movements in Boise.

The counter-protesters were not there to incite violence or protest in favor of racism but were there to ensure that no property damage occurred.

We will likely see something similar happen should Boise begin to lean too heavily towards the liberal side of things. Either the conservative Idahoans will fight against the encroaching liberal viewpoints or they will just flee to the red-stained hills surrounding Boise.

Will Boise Being a Liberal City Negatively Affect My Experience There?

A question many people might have is whether Boise being a generally liberal city would affect their experiences when visiting or living in the city.

The general answer to that question is no.

Boise is a liberal city and does have a more liberal population, but a normal person living there will not be negatively affected by this whatsoever.

I spent a good deal of time in Boise while attending Boise State University, and while I can testify that the general feel of the area is much different than the significantly more conservative neighboring Canyon County, my experience there was wonderful.

The city may be liberal, but that is mostly compared to the blood-red conservative state it is surrounded by. Boise is a wonderful city, with lots of things to do and places to work.

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Barrett Harmer

Hello! I grew up in Boise, Idaho, but have lived in various places around the country. I enjoy being with friends and my favorite food is southern style BBQ.

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