California Population Exit May Contribute 51,000 New Democratic Votes for Arizona Swing State
While wealthy retirees moving to Florida and North Carolina contributing to increased Republicans in those swing states
According to a new report by Redfin, people moving out of California to Arizona and Nevada -- including newly remote workers seeking more affordable homes -- could play a part in those swing states voting Democrat in this year's presidential election. Yet wealthy retirees moving from the Northeast to North Carolina and Florida could factor into potential Republican victories in those states.
Arizona, where President Trump won by a margin of roughly 91,000 votes in 2016, has gained 51,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans over the last four years. Arizona has also added 49,000 voters registered with a party other than Democrat or Republican--referred to as "other" throughout the rest of this report--since the 2016 presidential election. That could benefit Democrats because Independent voters--who make up a significant portion of "other" voters--may be more likely to lean left this year: Joe Biden is leading by a 31-point margin among Independents in Arizona, according to a recent poll, and he's also leading among Independents in other states.
From January to April 2020, a time period that spanned the Democratic primaries, the number of voters registered as Independent declined by more than 52,800 while the number of registered Democrats increased by nearly 48,500. That suggests many Independents switched to Democrat, which could also indicate that voters registered as "other" could be more beneficial to Democrats.
The increase in the number of Democratic voters in Arizona and Nevada is likely due in part to people moving in from liberal California, which lost a net 200,000 more residents to other states in 2019, more than any other state. Arizona saw a net increase of roughly 91,000 residents move in from other states in 2019, the third biggest net increase of any state. Nevada added about 43,000 such residents, seventh out of all states. Redfin expects the net increase in 2020 to be even larger in both states.
Reno, Las Vegas and Phoenix were the most popular destinations for people leaving California in 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
"Arizona could vote for the Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since 1996, a flip that would be partly due to migrants priced out of liberal cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and Chicago," said Redfin economist Taylor Marr. "Migration into Arizona has accelerated this year, with more than 100,000 more new residents moving in than leaving for the first time in at least a decade. The trend is becoming larger now with the pandemic-driven work-from-home culture, which allows people the freedom to relocate to a more affordable state where they can find more spacious homes."
Nevada, which Hillary Clinton carried by 27,000 votes in 2016, has gained 3,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans over the last four years. The state also added 96,000 "other" voters, made up mostly of a 73,000-person increase in Clark County (Las Vegas) and an 11,500-person increase in Washoe County (Reno). Both counties voted Democrat in the 2016 presidential election.
Migration data shows a similar trend: People leaving San Francisco and Los Angeles for Phoenix and Las Vegas
The Bay Area and Los Angeles are perennially two of the top 10 places Redfin.com home searchers are looking to leave--largely due to expensive housing--while relatively affordable Phoenix and Las Vegas tend to be the among the most popular destinations for Redfin.com users. Los Angeles was the most popular origin for people moving into both Phoenix and Las Vegas in the second quarter.
More people migrate from blue (Democratic) to red (Republican) counties than vice versa; 6.5% more Americans looked to move to red and swing counties than to blue counties in the second quarter of 2020. The relative popularity of red and swing counties--which tend to be suburbs, rural areas and small towns, versus the big cities than make up blue counties--comes down largely to affordability: The typical home in the blue Los Angeles metro sold for $730,000 in September, versus $330,000 in the Phoenix metro (part of Maricopa County, which is a swing county).
"More people than ever are moving into Phoenix from expensive cities in California and Washington," said local Redfin agent Thomas Wiederstein. "The pandemic has been a big driver, as people who can suddenly work from home are able to prioritize living in a place where they can get more indoor and outdoor space for their money, along with sunny weather. They seem to be a mix of conservative and liberal: Some of the people moving in appreciate that Arizona has been a red state for a long time, but others see the potential for a shift that seems to be on the horizon."
As migrants move into Florida--where there's no state income tax--and North Carolina, the states see uptick in registered Republicans and "other" voters
The story is different on the East Coast, where movement from New York and neighboring states to Florida and North Carolina--partly made up of retirees and remote workers following the sunshine and affordability--could contribute to a Republican win in those swing states. However, the picture in Florida and North Carolina is murkier than Arizona and Nevada due to the role of "other" voters.
Florida, which President Trump won by 113,000 votes in 2016, has added roughly 97,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats in the last four years. Florida also added 319,000 "other" voters, with Miami-Dade County, Palm Beach County, Broward County (Fort Lauderdale), Polk County and Orange County (Orlando) picking up the most. All but Polk County voted Democrat in 2016.
"The uptick in 'other' voters in Miami and Orlando could be a boon for Democrats because those cities are more liberal than other parts of Florida," Marr said. "People who move to different areas often sort themselves by political views, with people who lean liberal moving to liberal places and conservative people moving to conservative places. That could mean 'other' voters in places like Miami and Orlando are more inclined to vote Democrat than Republican."
Forty-two percent of U.S. residents said they would be hesitant to move to an area where most residents have political views that differ from their own, according to a Redfin survey of more than 3,000 people fielded in October. That's up from 38% in June 2019 and 32% in June 2020.
"The stream of retirees may be bigger than usual this year, as some people opt to take early retirement or work from home ahead of retirement due to the pandemic," Marr said. "There's some speculation that people leaving liberal New York and neighboring states will bring Democratic votes to southern swing states, and the big increase in 'other' voters may play into that theory. But the uptick in registered Republicans suggests many of the migrants are conservative people moving to more conservative places."
Parts of Florida and North Carolina are typically some of the most popular destinations for Redfin.com users looking to relocate, with Tampa, Miami, and Charlotte among the top 10 places people were looking to move during the second quarter.
"Many of the people migrating into Florida are wealthy retirees or people approaching retirement age," said Wendy Peterson, a Redfin real estate agent in Tampa. "A lot of people move to Tampa from Washington, D.C., New Jersey, New York and the Midwest to avoid high taxes in those areas and put their money in Florida real estate. Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen a bump in out-of-state people moving to Florida because many people are no longer tied to brick-and-mortar offices."
North Carolina, where President Trump won by a margin of about 173,000 votes in 2016, has gained roughly 231,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats in the last four years. But like Florida, North Carolina also added 319,000 "other" voters, with the biggest upticks in Wake County (Raleigh), Mecklenburg County (Charlotte), Guilford County (Greensboro) and Forsyth County (Winston-Salem). All five of those counties voted Democrat in 2016.
If people typically sort themselves by political views and move to an area that's in line with their politics, there's reason to believe "other" voters in Florida--and North Carolina--will vote Democrat over Republican this year, making those states more competitive than the uptick in registered Republicans suggests.