Population Shift to Red States Should Make GOP Nervous

Major news sources like to monitor migration trends among states. The Census Bureau has been watching these trends also and what you find "between the lines," is really quite interesting. Each year moving companies like U-Haul and United Van Lines report on migratory trends of Americans and they are always quite telling.

South Carolina
North Carolina
District of Columbia

There are several unique characteristics about the "go to" states on this list.

They are often huge. Texas gained over 500,000 in a recent year and continues to be a population magnet. This is largely attributable to the huge number of businesses that have relocated to the state.

All but three of these destinations lean Republican or are very Republican. Republican strategists' lips salivate when they think of these population shifts to their state. This means more Congressional seats moving to their states and away (as you will see later) from Democrat states. However, they may be surprised by the long term results, as I will explain later.

DC is an anomaly on the list. Its explosive growth is linked almost entirely to the massive growth of government in recent years and all the jobs that came with it.

The others tend to be in the West or the South. This has been a trend that has persisted for decades and continues to be the case. Politically, the implications of this are significant. All of our Presidents since John F. Kennedy have been from Texas, California, Georgia, and Arkansas (with the exception of our sitting President and Gerald Ford.

What about the states that are experiencing an exodus? Here is that list in order:

New Jersey
New York
West Virginia

They are in overwhelmingly liberal states. With the exception of Mississippi, these states are all "true blue." This, again, makes conservatives excited and liberals concerned, but the long term implications could prove different. "Purple" Ohio has a Republican governor, but for years the Democrats have largely dominated the state.

With the exception of Mississippi and West Virginia, all of these are in the East Coast and Midwest, which have also suffered when it comes to political prestige and power.

Conspicuously absent from the departure list is Michigan, which had been present with this notorious group for years. It is off it after several years of tax, regulatory, and employee reform (e.g., becoming a "Right to Work" state) that has stopped the flow and has actually found itself growing in numbers. Many are saying the government is "reinventing" the state.

What are the lessons learned?

I believe that the political and economic environment of many of these states suffering departures have become so hostile to entrepreneurship and economic growth, people are voting with their feet in a quest to find better jobs and opportunities. New York and Connecticut are noted for their constant regulatory pressures they apply on business, forcing many to have little choice but to leave. The list goes on; people are leaving these states on the quest for economic prosperity.

I believe Republicans, who appear to be the long term winners in these shifts, should be cautious in their enthusiasm. I remember when I worked as an aide for US Senator Gordon Humphrey of New Hampshire. That state had become extremely Republican by the 1980s and was enjoying growth as people fled the disastrous political and economic situation in Massachusetts just to the South. Eventually New Hampshire became increasingly liberal as people moved who knew there were things wrong with their home state -- taxes, crime, etc. -- but didn't realize that the people they were voting for were the source of their problems. So once they moved to a new promise land, they brought the same terrible policies with them. Today, New Hampshire is now a major population loser as the migrants from Massachusetts wonder what happened to the Granite State. It is a vicious cycle.

The future looks bright for conservative friendly states on paper, but this will only be the case if new voters support the very policies that have made these states so attractive in the first place.