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PROVO, Utah (AP) -- A conservative think tank has ranked Provo as the nation's most conservative city.
West Valley City was ranked as the 21st most conservative city, and Salt Lake City was ranked as the 95th most liberal city.
The rankings by the Bay Area Center for Voting Research were based on the 2004 election results for 237 cities with at least 100,000 residents in the last U.S. census.
Researcher Lindsay Hogan said the center looked at how many votes were cast for each candidate, and classified each candidate as liberal or conservative and added up the totals.
Hogan said the biggest indicator of political leanings was race. Detroit, ranked as the most liberal city, is about 80 percent black, while Provo is almost 90 percent white.
Major universities also were a factor. Berkeley, Calif., and Cambridge, Mass., both have major universities that attract liberal students, while Provo has Brigham Young University, director Jason Alderman said.
"At Berkeley, you've got college students from throughout California, throughout the country who are liberal and who come here to be with other liberals," he said. "You have that at BYU. You've got this sort of vortex magnet effect on both the left and the right sides."
While the study did not show any relationship between politics and religion, BYU political science professor Quin Monson said the strong presence of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Provo was a primary factor.
"There's a very clear pattern that we could show with our exit poll data that LDS voters are very likely to identify as Republican and very likely to support Republicans," he said. "I would put that on the top of my list as the reason why they found what they did."
University of Utah political scientist Matthew Burbank was not surprised by Provo's and Salt Lake City's rankings but was surprised by West Valley City's high conservative ranking.
All five of the state senators and five of the eight state representative who represent West Valley City are Democrats.
Burbank said West Valley City and adjoining Salt Lake City are not that different demographically, so he assumed the voting patterns would be similar.
West Valley City Mayor Dennis Nordfelt suggests that voters support Republicans nationally because they agree with the party platform, but support many Democrats locally because "they know the candidates."
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)