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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, December 26, 2015 4:51 am

Area towns among nation's reddest

Brian Francisco | The Journal Gazette

Five cities in northeast Indiana are among the more conservative communities in the United States, according to the political data company Crowdpac.

Kendallville is the 33rd most conservative community with at least 6,000 residents, Crowdpac reports. Angola ranks 54th, Auburn is 111th, Bluffton places 112th, and Warsaw is 191st.

The nonpartisan, for-profit Crowdpac analyzed financial donations to state and federal candidates since 2002 to calculate a "political ideology score" for nearly 5,000 cities and towns.

A Journal Gazette review of the Federal Election Commission’s campaign contributions database shows that Kendallville residents have made 159 separate donations to federal candidates since 2002, with 148 checks written to Republicans and 11 to Democrats.

Just eight donors accounted for roughly half the total number of GOP contributions – indicating that Kendallville’s political ideology score was shaped in large part by relatively few of its 9,900 citizens.

IPFW political scientist Michael Wolf said any study comparing communities of wide-ranging populations can be tricky because of "heteroscedasticity." In a nutshell, the variance of anything being measured grows as the sample size does, so smaller cities are bound to be more conservative or liberal than larger ones.

Indeed, Crowdpac’s most conservative city is Hereford, Texas, which has a population of about 15,400, and its most liberal city is Vashon Island, Washington, which has a population of 10,600.

Regardless of the methodology, Kendallville and Angola "certainly are conservative. They’ve demonstrated that," Wolf said.

More than 62 percent of voters in Noble County, where Kendallville is the largest community, chose the Republican or Libertarian candidates for president, U.S. senator and governor in the 2012 general election. More than 59 percent did in Steuben County, where Angola is the biggest city.

The Republican Party organizations in those counties are good at recruiting candidates and raising money, Wolf said, which attracts attention from candidates looking for potential donors.

"It is a story of engaged people with checkbooks, but it’s also a story of an increasingly strong ability for parties and candidates to be able to target people," Wolf said.

"So it’s kind of a two-way street here: The donors have given, but because their information is shared among the different levels of the party, they have more people asking them for money," he said.

By far the most frequent beneficiary of Kendallville campaign contributions is Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, who has received 60 separate donations for his House and Senate campaigns. But Kendallville residents also have given money to the GOP presidential campaigns of George W. Bush, John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio – as well as Democrats Barack Obama and John Edwards.

Fort Wayne ranks as the 1,872nd most conservative city in the Crowdpac study, and New Haven is the 1,372nd most conservative. Other northeast Indiana rankings include Huntington, 805th most conservative; Columbia City, 1,572nd; and Decatur, 1,709th.

Among Indiana’s largest cities, Fort Wayne, South Bend and Indianapolis share a political middle of sorts, all within 16 ranking spots. Evansville, Carmel, Fishers, Lafayette and Muncie are more conservative, Crowdpac said, while Hammond, Bloomington and Gary are more liberal.

Five of the 10 most conservative communities nationwide are in Texas, according to Crowdpac. Seven of the 10 most liberal communities are in California, New York and New Jersey.

bfrancisco@jg.net