Much of Gainesville’s fame comes from its colleges. The University of Florida and the Santa Fe Community College are located here, and both have very large student populations that swell up the town’s moderate population of 100,000 during the school year. The liberal student population of the University of Florida has garnered the school the nickname, “Berkeley of the South.” Indeed, unlike surrounding districts, Gainesville votes overwhelmingly Democratic. There is a sizable African-American population that makes up nearly a quarter of the city, as well as a smaller minority of Latinos, which may help explain the voting discrepancy with neighboring counties, as the African-American community in this area votes primarily for Democrats.

Gainesville also acts as a transition from what is traditionally considered the South and tropical Florida, which has a very different culture. The city is located about halfway between Atlanta, one of the largest and most representative cities of Southern culture, and Miami, the gateway into the Caribbean, Central and South America.   South of Gainesville, the suburban sprawl characteristic of central and southern Florida begins to be noticeable. Gainesville is also the border between two climates; the deciduous trees of the North begin to give way to tropical palms in Alachua County, of which Gainesville is the seat.