A recent article in The Washington Post showcased a study that found Ithaca, N.Y. as one of the nation’s most politically tolerant metropolitan areas.
A study published by Christopher Claassen and James Gibson surveyed residents in 365 U.S. cities. The 4,000 respondents were asked questions about civil liberties and protests.
The study found that instead of large cities with a diverse population, small cities featuring major colleges are the most accepting to political demonstrations and discussions.
“The most tolerant metro areas are instead college towns such as Boulder, Colo.; Ithaca, N.Y.; and Corvallis, Ore.,” the article stated.
Large cities like New York were found to be less tolerant to political protests, compared to college towns.
Political demonstrations are common place in Ithaca. These are not the protests seen on non-stop cable news coverage and high-profile clashes with police, however. Most Ithaca protests include people of all ages, holding signs, having a megaphone, gathered around.
From what I have witnessed, the typical protest will last about an hour and will have very little disruption to normal day-to-day Downtown Ithaca activity.
Kathy Zahler is the communications director for the Tompkins County Democratic Committee. Although she says she cannot speak for the whole committee on this issue, she has lived in the Ithaca area for most of her life.
Zahler thinks there is a reputation that college towns do not listen to all political views, but the cities are more welcoming to diversity of demographics and thoughts.
“College towns have received some bad press lately, accused of becoming increasingly close-minded when it comes to certain ‘disagreeable’ political viewpoints, but I think that they remain open and tolerant compared to most places, so the revelations from this study do not surprise me,” she stated in an email.
The study also found these cities are more tolerant to political dissent and disagreement. This, of course, is a cornerstone in our society that is the first amendment in the United States Constitution.
“If you live in a community that values free speech, you feel comfortable speaking out,” Zahler stated. “The lesson appears to be that we all, right and left, must be careful not to suppress free speech, because when we do so, we muffle dissent of any kind, not just the speech we wish to silence.”
I reached out to The Tompkins County Republican Committee for their thoughts on the results of the study, but the committee did not respond to request for comment.