Migration Shift: Swing States Witness Influx of Newcomers as Americans Transition from Blue to Red Counties

Migration Shift: Swing States Witness Influx of Newcomers as Americans Transition from Blue to Red Counties

People cheer at Grand Haven’s first Pride Fest in June, which was held in West Michigan. It was the county around Ottawa where the most people moved than any other in the swing state. Ottawa is a very Republican county that is becoming more Democratic, like many other counties that are growing quickly.

A Stateline study found that over the past few years, millions of people across the US have moved from Democratic cities to Republican suburbs. This has made the politics of swing states more difficult in a very important election year.

Most new people moved to Republican suburban counties in four swing states: Georgia in the South, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin in the Midwest; places with a lot of Democrats moved the fewest people. In Arizona and Nevada, two Western swing states, towns that lean Democratic and are expected to be very competitive have been the biggest draws for people.

In Republican counties, which were defined by the 2020 presidential election, 3.7 million more people have moved in than have left since 2020. In Democratic counties, on the other hand, 3.7 million more people have left than moved in, according to a Stateline analysis of estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau and county presidential election data kept by the University of Michigan.

The March figures from the U.S. Census Bureau included people who moved within the country between the middle of 2020 and the middle of 2023. This was a time of pandemics, lockdowns in big cities, and more people working from home, all of which made people look for cheaper housing in less crowded and more scenic areas. In those places, things tend to be more traditional as well. The census numbers don’t include births or new people moving in.

It remains to be seen whether the newcomers will vote Democratic this year or Republican because they were unhappy with Democratic policies in their old homes. Maybe the changes have the most impact on local and regional races. But in swing states, even a few people moving across state lines could change the number of votes cast for president.

The election will be decided by such a small change in the number of voters in each of these states that a few thousand votes in any one state can change the number of electoral votes that state has. David Schultz, a political science professor at Hamline University in Minnesota who has edited and written several books on presidential swing states, said this.

In 2020, the counties in Georgia (Forsyth County), Michigan (Ottawa County), Pennsylvania (Cumberland County), and Wisconsin (Waukesha County) that saw the most people move were all strongly behind President Donald Trump. But Joe Biden did better than any Democrat since Lyndon Johnson in 1964 in the three counties in the Midwest.

Politics in a country that is changing

There has been tension in some areas that are growing because new people come with their own ideas about how things should be.

“People keep moving here because they like it, and then they try to make it like the place they left,” said David Avant, who is from Forsyth County, Georgia and runs a website for business networking. The Stateline study shows that between mid-2020 and mid-2023, about 17,000 new people moved into his county.

In some of the red areas that were looked at, politics may not be changing just yet. In 2018, Doug Zylstra was the first Democrat to be elected to the 11-person Ottawa County Board of Commissioners in Michigan in almost 50 years. He was re-elected in 2022, but when a new majority took office in 2023, the board became more conservative.

“The people of Ottawa County chose to get rid of the previous board, which was mostly Republican and supported Democratic ideas and actions,” Sylvia Rhodea, one of the new Republicans on the commission, said.

Rhodea spoke out against the previous board’s diversity, equity, and inclusion program in a January 2023 meeting. He said it was “based on the premise that county residents’ characteristics of being 90% white and largely conservative were problematic for businesses” and that it “seeks to replace the American value of equality with the Marxist value of equity.”

“The divide in Ottawa County is not based on race; it is based on ideas.” “We will continue to welcome people, but the ideas that try to divide us must end,” Rhodea said at the meeting.

The only Democrat in Ottawa County was chosen in the area where the Rev. James Ellis III lives. He is Black and moved to the county in April 2023. He said that the comment about the “racial divide” “feels wrong to me and not to mention unhelpful.” He also said he doesn’t belong to any party but that “people on every side have a hard time listening to each other.”

Ellis was born and raised in Maryland. He has also lived in Washington, D.C., and British Columbia, Canada. In Ottawa County, he went to a village seminary.

“Ottawa County is not a perfect place to live.” Ellis of Maplewood Reformed Church said, “It has great people, a lake, lots of churches, and winter sports. But it also has power dynamics and unfairness that need to be fixed, just like anywhere else.” About 83% of the people in the county are white. There are also small but growing groups of Asians, Blacks, and Hispanics.

“They choose the same thing”

About 5,200 people have moved to wealthy, suburban Waukesha County in Wisconsin, while 37,000 people have moved out of downtown Milwaukee County. Steve Styza, a Republican who won an open place on the Waukesha County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, said that won’t change the politics of either county any time soon.

Before the election, Styza said, “Democrats are definitely trying to make as big of a push as they can to turn the most conservative counties in our state blue or purple and try to gain some kind of foothold because it is strategically important.” “I would try to do the same thing if I were on the other team.”

In 2020, almost 60% of people in Waukesha County voted for Trump. However, 38.8% of people voted for Biden, which was the biggest share for a Democrat since 1964. In 2022, the county voted 39.4% for Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, which was a little more than the state average. In 2020, 69% of people in Milwaukee County chose Biden, and in 2022, 71% chose Evers.

Like Avant in Georgia, Styza said that Democratic arrivals can sometimes threaten the way of life in the suburbs that drew them there in the first place.

“They say, ‘I need to leave that place because of what’s going on,’ but then they vote for the same thing somewhere else and then wonder why things go badly,” Styza said.

Both Arizona and Nevada are Western swing states. The politics are pretty much the same, but the biggest towns are still growing quickly. Phoenix is in Maricopa County, Arizona. In 2020, the county voted Democratic for the first time since 1948, when Harry Truman won it.

Clark County, Nevada, which is home to Las Vegas, has voted Democratic for president every year since 1992. However, the Republican vote has been rising since 2008 and will reach 44% for Trump in 2020. David Damore, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said that some of the new Republican strength could come from people who moved there from the conservative inland area of California east of Los Angeles.

Damore said, “On the other hand, Reno, which has been voting more Democratic lately, is luring more liberal Californians from Sacramento and the Bay Area.” “The Democrats gained in Reno the share of the vote they lost in Las Vegas.”

Some conservative thinkers say that people who move from blue to red areas do so because they support conservative policies or are attracted to the results of those policies.

The American people seem to have a clear idea of what kind of state government they want every day. Instead of moving to states with strict rules and restrictions, these people have chosen to move to states that focus on protecting the freedoms that people value, according to an analysis of state-by-state moving data published in January by City Journal. The analysis was led by Jeffrey Anderson, president of the conservative non-profit American Main Street Initiative.

Some demographers think that people move because they need to find work and housing, not because of politics.

William Frey, a demographer at The Brookings Institution, said, “Domestic migration [moving] across state and metro areas is not strongly affected by politics. Instead, it is strongly affected by the job market and housing conditions.” His words also included that people moving from blue to red states “could make their destination states less red—Arizona and Nevada are good examples.”

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