The Myth of Partisan Migration

Currently there is a narrative floating around Republican circles that people are leaving liberal states and cities in droves to join their conservative utopian rural towns. It’s based on general numbers of which states gained or lost population in the last two decades and whether those states are considered Democrat or Republican based on the Presidential elections.

Obviously I take issue with this narrative, given it’s obvious and less obvious flaws. For one, we should not be rating people leaving a state based on their vote for national office. It is far more accurate to look at party control at the state level, since they are deciding state policy. Secondly, looking only at state totals ignores where migration is actually happening. And thirdly, migrating to a state does not indicate that migration is to rural areas. Let’s look at the numbers:

Migration / PopPopulation stateNet migrationStateControl 00‘sControl 10‘sUS Congress
8.11%7,278,717590176ArizonaRed-PurpleRedBlue Purple
1.04%3,017,82531314ArkansasBlue PurplePurpleRed
0.28%39,512,223110227CaliforniaBlue PurpleBlueBlue
7.63%5,758,736439140ColoradoPurpleBlue purpleBlue Purple
-1.86%3,565,287-66471ConnecticutBlue PurpleBlueBlue
5.35%973,76452127DelewareBlue PurpleBlueBlue
11.01%21,477,7372364193FloridaRedRedRed Purple
-0.85%1,415,872-12056HawaiiBlue PurpleBlueBlue
-4.85%12,671,821-614467IllinoisBlue PurpleBlueBlue Purple
0.56%3,155,07017809IowaBlue PurpleRed PurpleRed
-1.99%2,913,314-57875KansasRed PurpleRed PurpleRed
0.70%4,467,67331408KentuckyBlue PurplePurpleRed
-1.35%4,648,794-62550LouisianaBlue PurpleRed PurpleRed
1.58%5,639,63289261MInnesotaPurpleBlue PurpleBlue Purple
0.01%6,137,428574MissouriRed PurpleRed (Purple)Red
5.15%1,068,77855062MontanaRed PurpleRed PurpleRed Purple
8.41%3,080,156259096NevadaRed PurpleBlue PurpleBlue
2.68%1,359,71136490New HampshirePurpleRed PurpleBlue
-2.15%8,882,190-190747New JerseyBlueBlue PurpleBlue
-1.88%2,096,829-39389New MexicoBlueBlue PurpleBlue
-3.48%19,453,561-677433New YorkPurpleBlue PurpleBlue Purple
5.85%10,488,084613886North CarolinaBlueRed PurpleRed Purple
6.05%762,06246135North DakotaRedRedRed
-0.36%11,689,100-41625OhioRedRedRed purple
2.06%3,956,97181707OklahomaBlue purpleRedRed
0.11%12,801,98913590PennsylvaniaRed PurpleRed PurplePurple
-0.32%1,059,361-3370Rhode IslandBlue PurpleBlueBlue
8.01%5,148,714412541South CarolinaRed PurpleRedRed
3.03%884,65926816South DakotaRedRedRed
4.90%6,833,174334598TennesseeBlue PurpleRedRed
6.63%28,995,8811921429TexasRedRedRed Purple
-0.53%623,989-3281VermontBlue PurpleBlue PurpleBlue
2.10%8,535,519179174VirginiaRed PurplePurpleBlue Purple
-2.10%1,792,147-37702West VirginiaBluePurpleRed
-0.18%5,822,434-10469WisonsinPurpleRedRed Purple
-1.74%578,759-10087WyomingRed PurpleRedRed

Let’s add some things up, shall we?
Migration total for Blue States: 540166
Migration total for Blue leaning States: -123353
Migration total for Purple states: 232716
Migration total for Red leaning states: 573334
Migration total for Red states: 6462626

This is what the right refers to when they make their claims. On the surface, looks pretty convincing, no?

Well let’s dig into that. First off, you’ll note that the net migration for solid blue states is highly positive. The only “group” that’s losing population are blue-leaning. And in those states, say New York, where are they leaving from? Not the main cities (NYC added a million people from 2000-2020, for example, and other large cities also show growth). So they are leaving the red areas, rural areas.

And where are they going? Let’s take Texas which has the most positive net migration. Here Houston grew by 3 million people in that same timespan. Similar positive rises for other large cities like Dallas and Austin.

So in other words, even in places where population is going down in the state, they leave rural areas and join urban areas in other states.

The movement of ideology also paints a picture. Alabama and Mississippi both shifted from Blue control to Red, yet Alabama has a small migration of 51,325 and Mississippi has a negative migration of -60,770. We don’t have any total shift the other direction, but Red-Leaning to Blue state Nevada saw an increase in population of 259,096.

Lastly, let’s look at migration versus population. The largest loss per capita is in Alaska (-5.97%) with the second highest being Illinois (at 4.85%). The largest gain is Florida, at 11.01%, with Nevada in second place with 8.41%

So we’ve got Red states both having the largest gain and loss, and blue states holding second place in gain and loss. Both indicate no trend based on party.

In Conclusion:

Nothing seems to indicate that party affiliation impacts leaving or staying or coming to a state. There is no analysis of policy done in number overviews like this, so we cannot point to anything that may attract or repel people from a certain place. We can look at major influxes or exodus, but then we’ll want to do that state by state (comments below is a great place for it!)

There are more “Red” states in the USA and there are more people migrating to these places. But even with that, “Blue” state populations still have more population in each compared to each red state. And voting records for the last 20 years shows that the majority of the people of the USA still vote more for Democrats than for Republicans. Nothing indicates a shift in that regard, especially not one based on net migrations between states.

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