Is San Diego, California a Liberal City?

San Diego, like many places in California, is a hotspot for tourist attractions. With its beachside cities, popular amusement parks, zoos, and museums, there is no lack of things to do in this city. It also boasts glorious weather for swimming and surfing. But what about the political climate?

San Diego, California residents lean more left on the political spectrum, which means it is a liberal city. While much of California votes blue and takes on liberal ideologies, San Diego is actually the most liberal city in California, as they have voted democrat for the last seven consecutive years.

Read more to find out what this entails if you were to move to San Diego, and to find out more about what you should know about San Diego’s political atmosphere and history.

What Does Liberal Mean?

The word ‘liberalOpens in a new tab.‘ describes a political viewpoint that leans strongly toward the government having an active role in supporting political and social change. People of a liberal persuasion have a strong stance in favor of government action to protect individual rights and alleviate social ills. While this can include a wide rangeOpens in a new tab. of topics, colloquially it has come to be commonly associated with topics such as abortion, economic issues, affirmative action, and climate change prevention.

California is predominately liberal in its beliefs, though the spread of both political ideologies is not even across the state. As with every state, there are people of both views throughout. Even so, the state passes more liberal-leaning laws and acts than some other states do. The city of San Diego is of a similar persuasion— people of many beliefs live there, but the most widespread and currently affecting ones are liberalOpens in a new tab..

How Does Being Liberal Affect a City?

A city that leans more liberal is likely to have more social reform efforts, be more environmentally conscious, and have higher concentrations of people who feel restricted or oppressed in more conservative cities.

Because of this, liberal cities such as San Diego have large LGBTQ+ communities. According to the Economic Development department of San Diego, it is also quickly becoming one of the most ethnically and culturally diverseOpens in a new tab. places in the nation. This is thanks in part to its “proximity to Mexico and the global recruitment capabilities of its innovation economy.”

Liberalism can be seen as an inclusive political viewpoint, but it has as many failings as its counterpart does. Likewise, governmental policies may not always reflect the voice of the people in an area. In fact, California as a whole is a widely disputed state, going back and forth on the political stance and well-being of the state.

Despite the liberal ideologies held by many in the city, the government is slow to change, often leaving people on both sides of social, economic, and political issues frustrated. In San DiegoOpens in a new tab., the more liberal views might come to impact how problems and issues are dealt with on a city level.

San Diego’s Political History

As recently as 2007, San Diego was a more conservative city. However, as the economy and culture have evolved, they have slid solidly into the liberal territory. Ideologies and opinions change as time does. San Diego has evolved to appreciate more liberal ideologies in recent years, but that does not mean that no other ideas exist. Professor Jim Newton of UCLAOpens in a new tab. feels that the most recent switch is due to the increase in the environmental movement and the increase in Latinx voters.

Before former President Barack Obama took office in 2008, San Diego was strongly republican, meaning they leaned more conservative than liberal. But during the 2008 election, when Obama became the first democratic candidate to win the majority vote in San Diego county, San Diego city residents took on more liberal ideologies and their voting habits began to be more left-leaning from that point forward.

Voting Statistics for San Diego

Just over half of the population of San Diego CountyOpens in a new tab., which includes the entirety of San Diego and its surrounding cities, were registered to vote in 2018. 36.6% of those registered had voted for democratic policies and candidates or registered themselves as democratic, whereas 29.4% registered as republican. While this may seem like a close percentage, still, a majority of voters in the county are liberal-leaning.

This voting statistic counts cities just outside of San Diego, so it’s likely that the percentage of democratic registered residents would be higher if only San Diego city was considered. This is especially likely considering how culture and minority-focused the city is, which is what tends to appeal to left-leaning people or encourages people to lean more left.

While these statistics were years ago, the political climate in San Diego has grown increasingly more liberal.

“In the last Presidential election, San Diego county remained overwhelmingly Democratic, 60.2% to 37.5%.

bestplaces.netOpens in a new tab.

San Diego Mayor

Currently serving as San Diego’s first-ever openly gay mayor, Todd GloriaOpens in a new tab. is also San Diego’s first person-of-color mayor. Fitting into both of these minority groups, it’s no surprise that San Diego would become a stronger safe space and sanctuary for other minorities.

San Diego is a place for people who may not feel like they fit in, or may not feel safe, welcome, or accepted in other cities, where they can find people they can relate to or resonate with their experiences. Todd Gloria does his part in making sure that San Diego citizens, new and old, are able to feel that sense of acceptance they might not receive elsewhere.

Because Todd Gloria is not only left-leaning in making changes and improvements to the city in regard to social politics, he is also a member of the democratic party, which leans left. Residents of San Diego voted and elected Gloria into the office of Mayor, so it would be no surprise to many that a majority of residents were liberal. The desire to elect a minority is not uncommon for liberals, as this helps those like Todd Gloria feel heard and accepted.

It was the democratic party, which often votes in favor of individual rights, that voted for gay marriage to be legalized. While there are no laws against electing a gay mayor, it’s likely that the idea of having a gay man run the city is one of many reasons why Todd Gloria gained appeal from the public.

When running for the office of mayor, Gloria’s campaign focused on liberal concerns such as climate change. Because his solutions for changes the city should make to prevent climate change appealed to many San Diego residents, he was favored over other candidates, meaning that a larger majority of the residents are left-leaning when it comes to other political ideologies as well.

San Diego as a Community

Being in a liberal city means that there are some ideas and conversations that may be unfamiliar or different to people from more conservative places. Especially when one considers the higher rate of diversity in culture, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.

Being a more liberal area, San Diego is very welcoming to people of many communitiesOpens in a new tab. and backgrounds. In particular, the city is keen to support its LGBTQ+ residents and visitors. The city of San Diego’s website even has a travel guide specifically for its queer visitors, providing a list of activities that are friendly, fun, historically interesting, and supportive.

San Diego warmly welcomes LGBTQ+ visitors and guests with a vibrant LGBTQ+ community and wide array of activities and attractions. One of the top LGBTQ+ destinations in the country, San Diego embraces people of all stripes and types and meets the world with pride, energy, enthusiasm, and true alegría de vivir.

San Diego’s LGBTQ+ Travel Guide

Visitors to the city can appreciate some of its many diverse cultures at one of the festivals that are common in the city. San Diego’s city website lists festivals celebrating the arts, food, film, music, and theater of all sorts and backgrounds.

With so many cultures in one place, the communities that they form are strong. San Diego is also home to many immigrants and refugees, with the city initiative Welcoming San DiegoOpens in a new tab. working to advance the civic, social, and economic integration of immigrants and refugees.

We envision a vibrant, inclusive, and safe binational region that attracts families and businesses from around the world and that all San Diegans can flourish in.

Welcoming San Diego City Initiative WebsiteOpens in a new tab.


Considering the vast diversity of people in San Diego, California, the percentage of people who are registered democrat, the city’s mayor, and the political history of San Diego, it should be no surprise that San Diego is a liberal city. It may actually come as more of a surprise knowing that San Diego was once a conservative city knowing how vastly different its politics and regulations have grown.

This isn’t to say that everyone in the city is left-leaning or that they agree with any or all of the city’s politics, but rather that a large portion of the residents in San Diego have taken on beliefs and ideologies that are liberal, and that recent changes and updates to the city have been left-leaning. It’s also worth to point out that having taken on these ideologies, a majority of residents have voted for state and federal policies and candidates that are liberal, making the city of San Diego, overall, a liberal city.

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Nathan Aydelotte

Hello! I'm Nathan, the lead editor for Suggested by locals. I grew up in the Boise, Idaho area and have lived here most of my life. I enjoy being close to the mountains where I can go hiking, camping, and mountain biking.

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