This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
No big city in the nation loves President Bush more than Provo, according to a study released Thursday labeling the Utah County seat as the most conservative in the union.
The Bay Area Center for Voting Research compared the 2004 presidential results for the 237 cities with at least 100,000 residents according to the last U.S. census.
With 94 percent of voters supporting liberal candidates, Detroit tops the list of Democratic cities. Provo, with 86 percent of voters going conservative, overshadows all other Republican strongholds. Lubbock, Texas, was a distant second on the conservative list, 11 percentage points below Provo.
West Valley City came in 21st on the conservative scale, while Salt Lake City ranked 95th on the liberal side.
"Being conservative is not unlike being a pioneer," said Provo Mayor Lewis Billings. "And we have a lot of pioneer spirit here."
Provo also happens to fit the demographic profile of a Republican town. It is small, predominantly white and highly educated. The study found large cities that fight poverty and have high black populations are more likely to support Democrats.
Provo does have an unusually high percentage of people below the poverty level (26.8 percent) for conservative cities, but University of Utah political scientist Matthew Burbank suggests Brigham Young University students, who spend more time studying than working, probably skew those stats.
Provo politicians responded to the study with satisfaction.
"We've known for many years that Utah County is very conservative, but I didn't realize that Provo would rank No. 1 like that," said state House Majority Leader Jeff Alexander, a Republican living in Provo. "It's a great place to be."
Provo resident Vaughn Cook agrees, though he would be happier if 86 percent of voters supported Sen. John Kerry rather than Bush in the last election. As the head of the Utah County Democratic Party, he found the study results amusing.
"Maybe I'm amused because the alternative is I would have to cry," he said.
Provo's and Salt Lake City's rankings didn't surprise Burbank, but West Valley City's spot near the top of the conservative list did.
On the local level, all five of the state senators who represent West Valley City are Democrats, as are five of the eight state House representatives. The mayor is a Republican, though that is a nonpartisan post.
Burbank said West Valley City and its neighbor, Salt Lake City are not that different demographically, so he just assumed the voting patterns would be more similar.
West Valley City Mayor Dennis Nordfelt suggests that voters support Republicans nationally because they agree with "the party platform," but Democrats locally because "they know the candidates."
All three Utah cities showed up in the top 10 in support of third-party candidates. Salt Lake City ranked second with 3.77 percent of the vote going to alternative candidates. Provo ranked sixth and West Valley City eighth.
The study suggests that other states make it more difficult for third party candidates to gain access to the ballot.
Also, the general assumption that Utah will go to the Republican candidate played a part.
"Third party votes in this election were clearly protest votes," the report states, "and these votes were often cast in states where the election did not hang in the balance."