How Americans describe New York, Los Angeles, and other major U.S. cities

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
December 05, 2023, 2:58 PM GMT+0

A recent YouGov poll asked Americans to offer their opinions on the six most populous U.S. cities according to 2022 U.S. Census Bureau estimates: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, and Philadelphia. For each city, respondents were asked to select all that applies to it from a list of 10 descriptors. They were also asked which of the cities they'd most and least prefer to live in, if given the choice.

Of the cities asked about, New York City is most likely to be regarded as multicultural (51% describe it that way), as having good food (45%), and as being walkable (32%). Los Angeles beat out other cities in the share who view it as having good weather (41%).

Houston is most likely to be rated as welcoming (20%), though only slightly more so than New York City (18%) and Philadelphia (18%). More classify Phoenix than the other five cities as scenic (32%), and the largest share of people — though still not many — classify it as safe (19%). None of the six largest cities are classified by at least one in five Americans as affordable, clean, safe, or having good politics.

There is little consensus among Americans on the prospect of living in any of the six largest cities. 16% say that of the six, they'd most prefer to live in each of New York and Phoenix; 13% say each of Los Angeles and Houston, and 8% and 7%, respectively, name Philadelphia and Chicago. Democrats are most likely to prefer New York City (28%) or Los Angeles (18%), which are each in states with big Democratic majorities, while Republicans are more likely to say Phoenix (24%) or Houston (18%) — both in redder states.

Among the cities asked about, more say they'd least prefer to live in New York City (26%) than say they'd most prefer to (16%); 17% say Chicago is their least preferred (more than the 7% who most prefer it), 16% Los Angeles (vs. 13%), 12% Houston (13%), 11% Phoenix (16%), and 7% Philadelphia (8%). Democrats are most likely to say their least preferred city is either New York City (21%), Houston (19%), or Phoenix (16%). An even larger share of Republicans choose New York City as the city they'd least like to live in (34%); 24% say Chicago and 23% say Los Angeles.

— Carl Bialik contributed to this article

See the results for this YouGov poll

Methodology: This poll was conducted online on October 6 - 10, 2023 among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to November 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 4%.

Image: Unsplash (Hannah Busing)