From San Francisco to Tampa, Houston to D.C., urban residents care about housing costs, crime, and educational outcomes
NEW YORK, NY – Conventional wisdom suggests that America’s largest cities are progressive strongholds, where moderates and conservatives are a fading force. But a brand-new survey from the Manhattan Institute’s new Metropolitan Majority initiative, conducted in concert with Echelon Insights, tells a different story. As recent political upsets for centrist candidates might suggest, America’s growing metropolitan areas are home to an overlooked constituency: a multiethnic mainstream of urban voters who embrace ideologically moderate and conservative views on a wide range of state and local issues. When asked about quality-of-life issues that are at the heart of state and local policymaking, such as public order, economic development, and K-12 education, America’s diverse “metro majority” often rejects policy solutions advanced by progressive activists. Tapping into the aspirations of America’s metro majority could translate into political momentum for shrewd, growth-oriented candidates on either the left or the right.
The Manhattan Institute’s poll, spearheaded by senior fellow and director of state and local policy, Michael Hendrix, surveyed adults in the 20 metropolitan areas with the largest numerical population growth from 2010-2019 to discover attitudes on a variety of key policy issues, including quality of life, job markets, housing, education quality, and more. The poll found significant variation across the country in terms of overall satisfaction, but a few important themes emerged:
- Sunbelt metros are significantly more satisfied with overall living conditions; this optimism is in sharp contrast to pessimism in metros outside the Sunbelt, where constituents are worried about issues like the cost of living, rising crime, and housing affordability.
- In Seattle, for example, half of survey respondents rate affordability as “very poor,” and 54 percent say they would leave if they could.
- Compare these results to Dallas-Forth Worth, where poll respondents rank housing as affordable, and two out of every three think the metro is headed in the right direction.
- Partisan and racial divides are less clear on local issues or specific proposals. Metros yield large, cross-partisan, multi-ethnic coalitions (“metro majorities”) on many issues, especially those that are seen as more local than national in scope. For example:
- Six out of ten respondents say crime is increasing in their area, a finding that cuts across racial and ethnic lines. Among those who live in urban cores but who express an interest in moving to a less dense area, crime rates are a top-three reason why.
- Few say local schools are doing a good job, and most support school choice and charter schools. Additionally, just over half of respondents are wary of “critical race theory” (CRT) in school curricula.
- Being a parent can motivate responses outside what’s expected for one’s partisan or ethnic group; parents have strong opinions on education, housing, and even nationalized issues like CRT in classrooms.
The metros polled include: Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Charlotte, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Orlando, Phoenix, Riverside-San Bernardino, San Antonio, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa, and Washington D.C.
The survey’s findings, particularly in the south and west, suggest that while a rising generation of urban socialists has captured the imagination of the national media, voters in growing metros are more receptive to a more pragmatic, pro-growth approach.
About Metropolitan Majority
The Manhattan Institute’s Metropolitan Majority initiative builds on the success of its New York City: Reborn campaign to infuse America’s cities with sound, growth-oriented policies to insure public safety, alleviate housing costs, improve educational outcomes, and promote overall quality of life. Increasingly, America’s metros are home to a pragmatic, multicultural constituency whose aspirations are not accurately captured by the legacy machine political systems that govern them, nor the progressive leadership too often associated with elite cities. This metro majority—composed not just of the white working class, but of upwardly mobile Hispanics, Asians, and Black Americans, too—values safety and seeks stable jobs and educational opportunities for their families.
For decades now, the Manhattan Institute’s work around the country has started on the ground, bringing together experts and practitioners to develop ideas to shape the future of America’s cities. The core model of our new Metropolitan Majority project is local partnerships resulting in policy briefs supported by polling to equip allies for impact.
The Manhattan Institute is the only leading market-oriented think tank in America that has saved cities; today we are listening to the metropolitan majority and encouraging their leaders to listen, too. As we emerge from Covid-19, join us in our mission to infuse vitality and prosperity into America’s metros and spark an urban renaissance close to home.