Is the country separating itself into two distinct camps? One increasingly leftist and the other trying desperately to cling to traditional American values? Census data seem to show that it very well could be underway.
Last week, we commented on recent population data showing that people have been fleeing urban areas, noting that these are mostly Democratically controlled, and we pointed out that people have also been moving from blue states to red.
But we wanted to go deeper and get more precise numbers. So, we matched Census net migration data from mid-2020 through mid-2022 for all the nation’s 3,000-plus counties (or their equivalents) and compared that with how these counties voted in 2020. Our working assumption is that the results of the incredibly divisive 2020 election would be a good barometer of the devoutly held political views in those counties.
What we found was striking: There has been a vast migration out of counties that voted for Joe Biden into those counties that voted to reelect Donald Trump.
Census data show a net internal migration of almost 2.6 million (2,562,937 to be exact) from blue counties to red since Biden was elected. (These figures don’t count immigrants or births or deaths, just those Americans moving from one location to another.)
More than 61% of the counties that voted for Biden in 2020 lost population, while 65% of Trump-supporting counties gained population.
- Of the 555 counties Biden won, 335 (or 61%) lost population due to internal migration, our analysis found. Of the 2,589 counties that Trump won, 1,675 (or 65%) gained population.
- Two Biden-voting counties that lost the most from net migration were Los Angeles County, which was down 363,760, and Cook County, Illinois, down 200,718. While many of the blue counties that lost population were urbanized, the exodus was widespread and nationwide, including many far more sparsely populated liberal areas.
- In contrast, the biggest loss in any red county was Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, down just 18,470.
- In 13 states that had a net loss of population, red counties nevertheless showed gains. In California, which saw a massive net outflow of 871,127 people in just the past two years, counties that backed Trump had a net gain of 8,412. New Jersey suffered a loss of 107,749 over the past two years, but counties in the Garden State that voted for Trump gained 22,507. Michigan lost 43,188 overall, but its red counties had a net gain of 28,091.
- On the other hand, blue counties lost population in states that saw overall gains. For example, Florida had a net gain of 622,476 over the past two years. But counties that backed Biden nevertheless lost 3,374. Georgia had a large gain of 128,089, but blue counties still had a net loss of 28,178. Tennessee saw an increase of 146,403 people, but counties that voted for Biden saw a decline of 37,306.
- In other states, people escaping blue counties accounted for almost all their population losses. In Illinois, for example, 91% of the state’s 282,048 net population loss came from counties that voted for Biden. Ditto in New York, where blue counties accounted for 96% of the state’s 664,921 outflow.
- In growth states, most of those moving in settled in red counties. In Texas, for example, the state’s more conservative counties accounted for 91% of its net population influx.
- The biggest red-county population winners were Collin County, Texas, north of Dallas, up 69,301, and Lee County, Florida, which is on the Gulf side of the state and includes Fort Myers, up 62,246.
- The biggest gainers for Biden-supporting counties were Maricopa County, Arizona, home to Phoenix (up 94,684), and Williamson County, Texas, north of Austin (up 52,970).
A Warning, And An Opportunity
The gains in Maricopa and Williamson counties are two exceptions that prove the rule – and provide a warning.
Maricopa’s population increases are coming mostly from nearby California, as people break away from the one-party leftist state for a place with lower taxes, better schools, more jobs, and safer living conditions. Texas’ Williamson County is directly north of uber-liberal Travis County, home to Austin.
Here’s the warning.
The population shifts have turned those two reliably red counties blue.
Until 2020, neither county had supported a Democrat since Harry Truman ran in 1948.
Hillary Clinton took just 44.8% of the vote in Maricopa County in 2016. Biden got 50.1%. Trump’s vote share in Williamson County dropped from 50.9% in 2016 to 48.15% in 2020.
These findings raise important questions that must be confronted:
Will this mass migration lead to an even more divided country, with people increasingly relocating to be with their ideological brethren?
Will it mean that, as in those Arizona and Texas counties, Democrats take over more areas that had been traditionally conservative as they ditch the disasters their own policies produced?
Or will this migration out of leftist enclaves lead to a weakening of the undue influence a few elitist urban areas have on national politics?
We hope for the latter. But that will happen only if these American migrants understand why they are moving and can be convinced to leave their failed politics behind.
— Written by the I&I Editorial Board
CORRECTION: This editorial originally listed Worcester County, Md., as having lost 17,545 people to net migration over the past two years. It actually gained 2,120. It was Baltimore City that lost 17,545. The nationwide migration number has been corrected as well.