City of Chicago downtown

The 12 Most Liberal Cities in Illinois in 2024

Most Liberal Cities in Illinois

In my travels across Illinois, I’ve encountered an incredible mosaic of communities, each with its own political, cultural, and economic identity. As a realtor and a keen observer of the state’s diverse landscapes, I understand how important it is for those with liberal leanings—be they renters or buyers—to grasp the subtle nuances of each area’s sociopolitical fabric.

In this exploration, I’ll share my personal take on what sets the 12 most liberal cities in Illinois apart, highlighting their commitment to progress and inclusivity. Be sure to read our related article to examine the most liberal cities in New York through a similar lens.

12. Chicago

The Heart of Illinois

Chicago stands out not just as Illinois’ largest city but as its progressive heart. Home to over 2.7 million people, this city thrives on its commitment to diversity, inclusivity, and social justice, making it a key player in Illinois’ liberal landscape. Chicago‘s rich tapestry of cultures and progressive values shine in its diverse neighbourhoods and vibrant community life.

Organizations like Choose Chicago play a pivotal role in sustaining the city’s economic and cultural dynamism. Their efforts to champion diversity and equity make Chicago a welcoming hub for all, enhancing both its appeal and the well-being of its residents[2].

Progressive Neighborhoods and Policies

From the artsy lanes of Wicker Park to the historic grounds of Hyde Park and the lively streets of Logan Square, Chicago’s neighborhoods each tell a story of progress and activism. Known for their strong support of social causes, arts, and LGBTQ+ rights, these areas embody the city’s progressive soul.

Policies like the Affordable Requirements Ordinance showcase Chicago’s commitment to keeping its doors open for everyone by ensuring affordable housing is a part of the city’s growth[1].

On my travels, I have always been amazed by the vibrant enthusiasm and boundless vitality of the locals. The city is a multicultural melting pot because of its diverse population, which includes people from all over the world. 

Key Statistics (US Government Census)

  • Median Age – 35.1 (younger than the national average)
  • Ethnic Minorities – 64.1% (higher than the national average rate)
  • Same sex relationship status – 0.6% (higher than the national average rate)[25]

11. Evanston

An Academic Hub

Next on the list of the most liberal cities in Illinois is Evanston. Exploring this city has always been a highlight for me.

Located in Cook County, it is a hub of liberal culture[3]. In addition to being the home of the prestigious Northwestern University, the city’s high-quality public schools and attention to environmental sustainability contribute to its progressive appeal.

Groundbreaking Policies

What truly sets Evanston apart, though, is its pioneering spirit in social justice. In 2019, the city made headlines by offering reparations to its Black residents, a bold move that underscored its commitment to liberalism and equity[4].

The city presents a youthful yet mature community. Its diverse fabric is evident, enriching the city with a variety of cultures and perspectives.

Key Statistics (US Government Census)

  • Median Age – 36.5 (younger than the national average)
  • Ethnic Minorities – 40.9% (higher than the national average rate)
  • Same sex relationship status – 0.6% (higher than the national average rate)[26]

10. Oak Park

Oak Park Chicago
Historic Buildings in Oak Park

Celebrating Diversity

Oak Park, nestled just west of Chicago, has long been a beacon of diversity and inclusion for me. Its Fair Housing Act from 1968, which supports its long-standing commitment to racial integration, has made it a pioneer in progressive housing laws[5].

Active Citizenry

The activism and engagement of Oak Park’s residents deeply inspire me. Whether it’s championing social justice, pushing for sustainable practices, or enhancing educational opportunities, the community’s efforts are palpable. The Oak Park Diversity Statement, in particular, mirrors the ethos of its citizens—committed to fostering an environment that’s inclusive, respectful, and equitable[6].

The demographics reveal a community that is both inclusive and diverse, with a noticeable maturity. Its welcoming and diverse community, which includes many members of the LGBTQ+ community and other ethnic minorities, exemplifies its ability to combine traditional and progressive ideals in a fresh and exciting way.

Key Statistics (US Government Census)

  • Median Age – 39.9 (older than the national average)
  • Ethnic Minorities – 38% (lower than the national average rate)
  • Same sex relationship status – 0.7% (higher than the national average rate)[27]

9. Urbana

A University City with a Liberal Heart

The University of Illinois is located in Urbana, which has a sizable liberal population. The city is renowned for its dedication to socially progressive causes, including the rights of LGBTQ+ people and the environment. Promoting equity and quality of life is also a priority in Urbana, as seen in projects focused on enhancing public infrastructure in underserved neighborhoods to improve safety and health[7].

Active Community Engagement

In Urbana, it is common for residents to actively participate in municipal administration. Residents frequently express their liberal beliefs and participate in the creation of local policy through grassroots initiatives and public forums. The Citizen Participation Plan in Urbana encompasses various programs and initiatives designed to foster community engagement, ensure equitable access to city resources, and enhance the quality of life for all residents[8]

Urbana’s lush streets have long exuded camaraderie and growth. The city’s inclusivity and environmental sustainability speak to me. From dynamic public forums to seeing transformative public initiatives in marginalized neighborhoods, Urbana’s commitment to social development and equality has grown on me. This city lives its beliefs, showing what community-driven change can do everywhere.

Key Statistics (US Government Census)

  • Median Age – 27.2 (younger than the national average)
  • Ethnic Minorities – 48.4% (higher than the national average rate)
  • Same sex relationship status – 0.5% (higher than the national average rate)[28]
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8. Carbondale

An Inclusive College Town

Carbondale, with Southern Illinois University at its heart, is known for its multicultural demographics and progressive policies. From its local organizations to the city council, a consistent push towards inclusivity and liberal values is evident.

The Student Multicultural Resource Center (SMRC) at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC) plays a pivotal role in fostering an inclusive learning environment. It aims to celebrate and support individuals of diverse identities by providing educational programming, fostering understanding, and working to eradicate systemic barriers[9].

A Forward-Looking City

Carbondale actively supports a progressive plan of action, whether it is via efforts to provide affordable housing or environmental sustainability. The Carbondale Community Sustainability Action Plan is a testament to the city’s dedication to addressing climate change and its impacts on the community[10]. The city’s government, educational facilities, and thriving local scene all reflect its liberal mentality. Carbondale is also considered the best place to live in Southern Illinois.

Key Statistics (US Government Census)

  • Median Age – 26.6 (younger than the national average)
  • Ethnic Minorities – 45.7% (higher than the national average rate)
  • Same sex relationship status – 0.4% (on par with the national average rate)[29]

7. Champaign

Champaign downtown
Traditional buildings found in downtown Champaign.

An Academic City with Progressive Values

The University of Illinois, located in Champaign and next to Urbana, gives the city its liberal leanings. Champaign emphasizes social fairness and education and frequently backs progressive politicians and initiatives.

A standout example of Champaign’s commitment to social progress is FirstFollowers, a reentry program I’ve come to admire. This initiative offers invaluable support and guidance to those affected by the criminal justice system, fostering healthy community relationships and facilitating successful reintegration[11]. The influence of caring, community-driven programs and Champaign’s commitment to social justice were made very clear to me as I observed their work.

Not to mention, it’s one of the best places for young professionals to live in Illinois because of its youthful vibrancy.

Emphasis on Affordable Housing

The multiple programs promoting affordable housing in Champaign demonstrate the city’s dedication to affordability. The municipal administration, along with local nonprofit organizations, works hard to provide fair housing options for all citizens. The city has shown a strong commitment to affordable housing through various initiatives and programs that aim to assist low-income residents, homeowners, and the homeless population[12].

Key Statistics (US Government Census)

  • Median Age – 26.7 (younger than the national average)
  • Ethnic Minorities – 46.5% (higher than the national average rate)
  • Same sex relationship status – 0.4% (on par with the national average rate)[30]

6. Bloomington

A Liberal Island in a Conservative Sea

Bloomington has continually shown progressive inclinations while being located in a usually conservative area. It shows its progressive inclinations through local elections and council races. My visits here have shown me a vibrant community with progressive action, evidenced not just in their local elections and council compositions but in the very fabric of daily life.

Despite the People First Coalition, a progressive group, not winning in their three council races, the election brought several new members to the Bloomington City Council. This indicates an active political environment where progressive ideas and candidates are part of the city’s discourse[13].

Commitment to Inclusivity and Understanding

The cultural commission, which fosters cross-cultural communication among the community, is an example of Bloomington’s dedication to inclusiveness[14]. Bloomington showcases its foundational belief in inclusivity and understanding through its efforts to promote cross-cultural communication. This dedication to bringing people together, regardless of background, is what makes Bloomington stand out as a community that not only values diversity but actively works to celebrate it.

Key Statistics (US Government Census)

  • Median Age – 36.9 (younger than the national average)
  • Ethnic Minorities – 28.8% (lower than the national average rate)
  • Same sex relationship status – 0.4% (on par with the national average rate)[31]

Now, we will go on to the second half of our list, which consists of the top five most liberal cities in the state of Illinois.

5. Springfield

The State Capital with a Liberal Side

The state capital, Springfield, has a sizable liberal population and is politically diverse[15]. The city, which is recognized as Abraham Lincoln’s hometown, promotes liberal ideologies in social services, healthcare, and education, making it one of the most liberal cities in Illinois.

Progressive Voices in Education and Healthcare

Springfield is committed to public education and healthcare, featuring a variety of educational institutions, from public schools to notable colleges. This educational infrastructure underlines the area’s dedication to ensuring access to healthcare careers and supporting the long-term well-being of its community[16].

Springfield’s attention to these industries is a reflection of its commitment to the well-being of its citizens.

Key Statistics (US Government Census)

  • Median Age – 40.7 (older than the national average)
  • Ethnic Minorities – 31.1% (lower than the national average rate)
  • Same sex relationship status – 0.4% (on par with the national average rate)[32]

4. Rockford

A City on the Path of Progress

The third-largest city in the state, Rockford, is steadily moving toward liberalism[18]. Rockford, known for Rockford University and a growing healthcare sector, supports progressive programs in healthcare, social services, and education.

Strides in Social Services and Healthcare

Rockford’s dedication to social services and accessible access to healthcare has influenced its recent political leaning toward liberal beliefs. The city’s expanding healthcare sector impacts its socio-political landscape by attracting liberal-leaning professionals.

Rockford has marked significant progress in healthcare with the opening of new facilities, highlighting the city’s commitment to improving medical services for its residents. The new healthcare facilities are part of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council’s effort to improve healthcare services, address the community’s needs, and boost the area’s economy and health[17].

Key Statistics (US Government Census)

  • Median Age – 37.1 (younger than the national average)
  • Ethnic Minorities – 47.8% (higher than the national average rate)
  • Same sex relationship status – 0.2% (lower than the national average rate)[33]

3. Decatur

Liberal Minority in a Conservative City

Although Decatur has a strong liberal minority that actively participates in local administration, the city is conservative-leaning. The progressive undercurrent in the area is greatly influenced by Millikin University, which serves as a focus for social activity and progressive beliefs[19].

A Platform for Progressive Policies

While the conservative majority rules Decatur, the liberal minority persistently promotes liberal politicians and initiatives. The  Neighborhood Revitalization initiative encompasses various strategies aimed at improving community well-being and economic growth[20]. This active engagement guarantees a wide spectrum of viewpoints and a thriving democratic climate in the city.

Key Statistics (US Government Census)

  • Median Age – 40.2 (older than the national average)
  • Ethnic Minorities – 36.3% (lower than the national average rate)
  • Same sex relationship status – 0.4% (on par with the national average rate)[34]

2. Normal

Education and Environment at the Forefront

Normal houses Illinois State University and is renowned for its dedication to environmental preservation and education[21]. I really like the progressive principles exhibited by this city’s unwavering dedication to environmental education and preservation. The city’s inhabitants not only pursue higher education but also actively engage in eco-friendly initiatives, embodying a community where learning and sustainability walk hand in hand.

Emphasis on Sustainability

The emphasis on sustainability in Normal’s policy and urban development is clear[22]. From recycling programs to renewable energy projects, the city’s efforts to protect the environment and foster a liberal, forward-thinking atmosphere are truly commendable. These actions reflect a community that’s not just thinking about the present but is deeply invested in securing a healthier, more sustainable future for generations to come.

Key Statistics (US Government Census)

  • Median Age – 25.8 (younger than the national average)
  • Ethnic Minorities – 25.9% (lower than the national average rate)
  • Same sex relationship status – 0.3% (lower than the national average rate)[35]

1. Peoria – Most Liberal City in Illinois

A Historical City with Emerging Liberal Tendencies

Peoria’s transformation into Illinois’s most liberal city is a narrative that has fascinated me in recent years. Once a battleground for political sway, Peoria has evolved, largely driven by its burgeoning healthcare sector and a growing university community. The election of its current mayor in 2021 was a turning point, showcasing Peoria’s readiness to embrace diversity and initiate substantial change[23].

Progressive Changes in Housing and Economy

My visits to Peoria have allowed me to witness its commitment to inclusive growth firsthand. The city’s progressive strides in housing and economic development are particularly impressive. Peoria has succeeded in its efforts to provide affordable housing and economic inclusion.

With two significant affordable housing projects underway on the South Side, Peoria is on a mission to breathe new life into vacant spaces, turning them into thriving communities of duplexes and townhomes. This initiative, a collaboration between the Peoria Opportunities Foundation and Pivotal Housing, is a clear testament to the city’s dedication to revitalization and inclusive growth[24].

Key Statistics (US Government Census)

  • Median Age – 36.0 (younger than the national average)
  • Ethnic Minorities – 45.4% (higher than the national average rate)
  • Same sex relationship status – 0.4% (on par with the national average rate)[36]

Conclusion – The 12 Most Liberal Cities in Illinois

Reflecting on our journey through Illinois’s most liberal cities brings us full circle to the rich diversity and progressive spirit that defines this state. From the bustling streets of Chicago to the innovative heart of Evanston and the green initiatives of Normal, each city contributes its unique hue to Illinois’s liberal mosaic. These cities, with their vibrant cultures, pioneering policies, and community-driven progress, illustrate the breadth of options available for those who cherish liberal values.

Illinois, with its broad spectrum of progressive cities, assures that whether your priority lies in cultural diversity, social justice, or environmental sustainability, there’s a place here that will feel like home. This exploration, inspired by my travels and the stories I’ve woven into each visit, reaffirms that Illinois is not just a state of towns and cities but a collective embodiment of progress and inclusivity.

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