Is Knoxville, Tennessee a Liberal City?

Downtown Knoxville, Tennessee city skyline and city lights at night

Whether it’s out of pure curiosity or you’re thinking of moving to Knoxville, you may be wondering what the political climate of the city looks like. In this article, we will look at the voting history of residents in Knoxville as well as any liberal policies or changes that have been put in place to answer whether or not Knoxville is a liberal city and what that means.

Knoxville, Tennessee is not a liberal city. While a large majority of residents in Knoxville and Knox County have statistically voted more conservatively, and many residents are registered as Republican rather than Democrat. Knoxville remains relatively politically moderate.

If you want to know more about Knoxville and its political climate and why Knoxville is not considered liberal, keep reading.

Knoxville at the Polls

Knoxville seems to be a bit more neutral than some other cities when it comes to how the citizens tend to vote. Knoxville, based on where they lean towards at the voting polls, is moderately right-leaningOpens in a new tab., which means that more residents are conservative or hold conservative values than liberals.

It should be noted, however, that Knox County leans even more strongly to the conservative side of the political spectrum, Tennessee as a whole leans a little bit more to the right, and the Knoxville Metro Area leans very far to the right. With a big city like Knoxville, you’re likely going to see a good mix of people from the rest of Tennessee moving into Knoxville, as well as those from neighboring and more liberal states moving into Knoxville. This is why there is a more neutral mix of voters inside Knoxville as opposed to its surrounding cities and the rest of Tennessee.

It’s important to know that percentages more accurately indicate the political leaning of a city or area than a political spectrum graphic does. In Knox county, 41.5% of residents voted for the Democratic candidate during the 2020 presidential election, while 56.5% voted for the Republican candidate. The remaining percentage represents those who voted for independent candidates.

While these percentages are still fairly close, it is obvious that a majority of voters voted for the Republican candidate, who leans more toward conservative values and viewpoints. This makes the city and other surrounding towns within the county conservative. Still, it should be noted that liberals who are looking for a more liberal city in the area can still find their sanctuary inside Knoxville, as it leans a little more liberal than most of Tennessee.

Voting History

The voting history of Knoxville for the past several years has remained relatively stagnant, only fluctuating by about 3 to 6 percent each year. For the 2020 presidential election, republican candidate Donald Trump received the popular vote in Tennessee, and a majority of residents in Knox county voted republican, a higher majority than those who voted republican in 2016. Tennessee voted primarily republican in every election since the year 2000.

Considering the voting history of Tennessee, you shouldn’t be surprised that Knoxville and Knox County also vote pretty conservative. The only reason that the numbers are more closely moderate, and that there are more democratic voters in Knoxville than in most of the state is because Knoxville is a college town, meaning there is a constant rotation of new, diverse people moving in every year when school starts up again.

The University of Tennessee, like many universities, encourages students to think more freely and apart from the beliefs they grew up being taught, so it makes sense why Knoxville has a wider diversity of political beliefs than its surrounding cities.

Protesting Downtown

A raised fist of a protestor at a political demonstration

According to the United States Constitution, anyone and everyone in the country has a right to protest for any reason, so long as their behavior is within the boundaries of the law. Protests more commonly occur in liberal cities where there are more people who are likely to feel passionate about the issues they protest. Knoxville is no exception, especially considering its sizeable population and percentage of residents who are in college and rethinking or reaffirming their political views.

One of the more recent protests that have happened in Knoxville involved the overturning of Roe v. WadeOpens in a new tab. by the Supreme Court. Outrage was incited across the nation, especially among liberals who believe in a woman’s right to have an abortion. Because this ruling will directly affect Tennessee, which will begin enacting anti-abortion laws 30 days after the ruling is overturned, many Tennessee liberals, including Knoxville residents, took to marching to the town square with signs to protest, hoping it would spark awareness and change in the new policy.

Seeing the result of this protest and many other protests like it in support of liberal viewpoints shows that neither liberals nor conservatives are outliers in this city. Whatever your beliefs are, you can rally support behind a cause, message, or belief and gain enough support to start a protest or make some change. This is especially true considering the moderate views of residents in Knoxville, knowing you can get about 50% of the population to take your side, which won’t exactly be the case in nearby cities.

Diversity and Inclusion

BELGRADE, SERBIA – SEPTEMBER 20, 2015: LGBT oriented people carrying a flag in Gay Pride Parade in Belgrade, Serbia

Having a more diverse population generally comes with more residents that lean toward the liberal side of the political spectrum. Liberals are more likely to embrace diversity, especially when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity, providing members of the LGBTQ+ community a welcoming space and thus encouraging more members to move into the area.

The presence of a more diverse racial or ethnic population is also going to encourage more liberal viewpoints.

5.84% of Knoxville residents were born outside of the United States, meaning the population of immigrants that lives in the city is very low compared to the national average of 13.7%, and the percentage for Knoxville residents has decreased since previous years. 72.4% of Knoxville residents are White, leaving 27.6% who are not White. The next largest racial population in Knoxville is Black or African American at 16.9%.

While the Knoxville population is primarily White, its diversity is actually greater than in Tennessee as a whole. This means that minority residents are more likely to find people like them inside Knoxville than anywhere else in the state, and can therefore speak about racial issues or inequalities and rally up more people who may have had similar experiences.

While there are more conservatives than liberals in Knoxville, the LGBTQ+ scene is very active and the community is strong and tightly knit. The city has held several Pride Parades year after year, there is no shortage of gay bars, and many queer people move to Knoxville simply for the friendly and inclusive atmosphere. The LGBTQ+ community fosters activism and embraces inclusivity, which is a quality of liberalism that has been brought in and pushed by the queer community.

The amount of diversity in Knoxville is thanks to the number of different people from around the country and even outside the country who move to town for school or work. Having a university that cycles through thousands of new students every year and even every semester so close by, it should be no surprise that Knoxville is growing increasingly diverse, and liberal ideas are being adopted more and more.

Is the Mayor of Knoxville Liberal or Conservative?

Another way to determine the political leanings within an area is to look at what type of politicians they vote for. When looking at a specific city like Knoxville, looking at the mayor’s politics is arguably the best way to do this.

The mayor of Knoxville is Indya Kincannon. She was elected as mayor in 2019. Prior to serving as mayor, Kincannon worked as a member of the local school board, as well as doing work for the federal Department of Justice. She won a narrow majority in the mayoral election, winning 52 percent of the vote over her opponent. Though the mayoral election was non-partisan, Kincannon has been affiliated with the Democratic party in the past.

What are her policy ideas as mayor, and do they align with liberal or conservative ideas? Looking at her webpageOpens in a new tab. on the city website, she lists several of the things that she has championed since coming into office. Among these was her work to change how police in Knoxville operates.

As mayor, she required each police officer to wear a body camera and has expanded the role that city mental health workers play in situations normally reserved for police officers. These are liberal ideas about changing the role of police during a time when police violence has become part of the national conversation.

Mayor Kincannon has also worked to develop more conservative ideas as well. She developed a plan to add a multi-use stadium to the city, bringing jobs and revitalizing the area around the stadium. She has also put money toward increasing residents’ access to the internet, especially in areas outside the city that are more remote.

Overall, it seems that the mayor of Knoxville has proposed a mix of liberal and conservative ideas. This seems to reflect the city residents as a whole tend to be conservative, but they are open to some liberal ideas. In Knoxville, there is a mix of people from a variety of places, so whether you are liberal or conservative, you should be able to find a community within the city where people share your ideas and interests.

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