If you find yourself wanting to steal that McCain-Palin or Obama-Biden sign on your neighbor's lawn, you might want to factor that feeling in when you think about where you want to retire. More and more people are. Fact is, most retirees say they would like to live in a place where they fit in with the culture, and lifestyle choices increasingly tend to vary according to political party lines.
Americans have been sorting themselves into these like-minded groups for three decades. Bill Bishop, coauthor of The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart, and Robert Cushing, a retired sociology professor, found that 48 percent of voters lived in communities where the presidential election wasn't close at all in 2004, up from 39 percent in 1992. "It's not about single-payer healthcare and Iran. It's not policy," says Bishop. "It's people who have the same kind of way of life, people who think alike."
To pick 10 great retirement spots where Republicans and Democrats would feel right at home, U.S. News tapped our list of over 2,000 Best Places to Retire and sought out places in congressional districts that leaned heavily toward one political party in the past two presidential elections. (You can use our search tool to build a list of retirement spots based on your personal preferences, including recreational and cultural activities, healthcare, region, and climate.) "For most people, politics isn't at the center of their lives," says Diana Mutz, a political science and communication professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Hearing the Other Side: Deliberative Versus Participatory Democracy. "If you choose a community based on the availability of certain types of schools or amenities, that's going to attract other people with similar types of viewpoints."
There's nothing quite like the warm bath of expressing your political views in public and knowing they are whole-heartedly embraced by the majority of your neighbors. "Pretty much when you meet people you can assume they are on the same political wavelength that you are," Ashleigh Evans, 69, a retired actress and regional director for Oracle Resource Services, says about San Mateo, Calif. "If a plumber comes to the house, you can pretty much assume he is a Democrat and feels the same way about most things that I do."
Evans is now the secretary and a past chair of an approximately 70-member political club called San Mateo County Democracy for America. Members meet at least once a month to increase voter registration, write letters to the editor, and send E-mails and make phone calls to potential voters. They hold occasional protests, especially against the Iraq war. But those in the political minority may find San Mateo less hospitable. "Here Republicans might keep their views to themselves because they might not feel as comfortable talking about politics," says Evans.
The situation is reversed in Republican-majority communities. "We want to make sure that our community remains Republican," says Sharon Dale, 65, a retiree who is president of the Fort Worth (Texas) Republican Women's Club, an approximately 220-member group that meets once a month to support Republican candidates for office and work on charity projects, especially for American troops. "Even people who are not involved in campaigns are still conservative and share our way of thinking," Dale says about Fort Worth. And the desire to be part of a like-minded community isn't just confined to the two major parties. Ron Paul supporters have recently begun to establisha community, Paulville, in western Texas made up exclusively of those who share Paul's libertarian views.
It doesn't hurt when a retirement haven combines small-town charms with proximity to a world-class city. Democratic Maplewood, N.J., offers quaint neighborhoods, a walkable downtown, and nearby hiking in the 2,047-acre South Mountain Reservation, but it's just 20 miles from New York City. Retirees in the Republican stronghold of Hoover, Ala., can enjoy nine golf courses, the 250-acre Moss Rock Preserve, stimulating the economy at the more than 200 stores at the massive Riverchase Galleria shopping center, and a senior center that serves lunch daily to those over 60 for a suggested donation of $1. And Hoover is within 10 miles of Birmingham.