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Southwestern States Gain Independents During Pandemic Housing Boom

The Democratic party has lost more registered voters than the Republican party since 2020 in several states key to the upcoming Senate midterms–but those states have gained Independent voters, who typically lean Democrat.

States’ voter registration trends are partly due to the wave of pandemic-driven relocation, with many remote workers moving from one metro to another in search of affordable home prices and/or a likeminded community – and bringing their political views with them.

That’s according to a Redfin analysis of changes in voter registration data in six swing states over the last two years: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. This report focuses on what voter registration and migration trends could mean for the Senate elections in Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania, which were three of the most closely matched states as of the days leading up to the midterms.

That’s according to a Redfin analysis of changes in voter registration data in six swing states over the last two years: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Nevada and Pennsylvania. This report focuses on what voter registration and migration trends could mean for the Senate elections in Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania, which were three of the most closely matched states as of the days leading up to the midterms.

“Pandemic-fueled migration has changed the political makeup of several key swing states,” said Redfin Deputy Chief Economist Taylor Marr. “Hot-button issues like the economy and crime are playing a big part in this year’s elections, making its outcome difficult to predict. But changes in voter registration, which are largely due to new residents who moved in from other places, offer one clue about how certain states will vote. The uptick in registered Democrats in Arizona and Nevada ahead of the 2020 election, due largely to people moving in from California, helped predict that President Biden would win those states.”

Increase in Independent voters in Nevada and Arizona could reflect liberals pushed out of expensive California

Registered Democrats have lost ground in Nevada, but Independents have gained ground. Democrats make up 33% of Nevada’s registered voters, down from 37% in 2020. Republicans make up 29%, down from 32%–a slightly smaller drop. But Nevada has seen an uptick in voters registered as “other” (unaffiliated with a major political party). “Other” voters make up a plurality (37%) of Nevada’s registered voters, up from 31% in 2020.

The trend is less extreme in Arizona, where Democrats make up 31% of all registered voters, down slightly from 32% in 2020. Republicans have held steady at 35%. “Others” make up 35% of Arizona’s registered voters, up from 33% in 2020. Note that shares in this report are rounded to the nearest whole number.

Those increases could benefit Democrats because Independent voters–who make up a significant portion of “others”–are more likely to lean left: 54% of Independents nationwide voted for Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 election, while 41% voted for Republican Donald Trump. Independent voters are unlikely to take much share away from Democrats or Republicans because while a growing share of Americans identify as Independents, most vote in line with one of the major parties.

The uptick in “other” voters likely reflects many of the residents who recently moved into Nevada and Arizona from more liberal places, including newly remote workers. Arizona and Nevada were the second and third most popular states for people moving away from California in 2020. And Redfin’s migration data shows that Los Angeles was the most popular origin for homebuyers moving to both Phoenix and Las Vegas. The typical home in both Las Vegas and Phoenix costs less than $450,000, roughly half of Los Angeles’ $840,000 median sale price.

Purple (swing) counties in Nevada and Arizona becoming more diverse in 2021, partly as a result of migration, could also favor the Democratic candidates.

Some of Nevada and Arizona’s new residents are conservative people sorting themselves

The points in Democrats’ favor could be offset by some people moving to areas that better match their existing political views.

“Americans often sort themselves into neighborhoods where people share similar views, which could help explain why Republicans lost fewer voters than Democrats in Nevada and Arizona,” Marr said. “Some of the people who left California for those states were probably frustrated by local responses to the pandemic, in addition to expensive homes and high taxes, and ready to move somewhere more conservative.”

The share of California voters registered as Republican has dropped 0.3 percentage points since 2020, a slightly smaller percentage drop than “others,” while the share of registered Democrats has increased 0.8 percentage points.

Nearly half (46%) of U.S. residents would feel hesitant about moving to an area where most residents have different political views from their own, according to an October Redfin survey.

Increase in Independent voters in Nevada and Arizona could reflect liberals pushed out of expensive California

Registered Democrats have lost ground in Nevada, but Independents have gained ground. Democrats make up 33% of Nevada’s registered voters, down from 37% in 2020. Republicans make up 29%, down from 32%–a slightly smaller drop. But Nevada has seen an uptick in voters registered as “other” (unaffiliated with a major political party). “Other” voters make up a plurality (37%) of Nevada’s registered voters, up from 31% in 2020.

The trend is less extreme in Arizona, where Democrats make up 31% of all registered voters, down slightly from 32% in 2020. Republicans have held steady at 35%. “Others” make up 35% of Arizona’s registered voters, up from 33% in 2020. Note that shares in this report are rounded to the nearest whole number.

Those increases could benefit Democrats because Independent voters–who make up a significant portion of “others”–are more likely to lean left: 54% of Independents nationwide voted for Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 election, while 41% voted for Republican Donald Trump. Independent voters are unlikely to take much share away from Democrats or Republicans because while a growing share of Americans identify as Independents, most vote in line with one of the major parties.

The uptick in “other” voters likely reflects many of the residents who recently moved into Nevada and Arizona from more liberal places, including newly remote workers. Arizona and Nevada were the second and third most popular states for people moving away from California in 2020. And Redfin’s migration data shows that Los Angeles was the most popular origin for homebuyers moving to both Phoenix and Las Vegas. The typical home in both Las Vegas and Phoenix costs less than $450,000, roughly half of Los Angeles’ $840,000 median sale price.

The share of California voters registered as “other” has fallen by 0.4 percentage points since 2020, a bigger percentage-point decline than Democratic and Republican registrations, suggesting that some of the people who left California are “others.”

“Concern about California’s high home prices trumps politics for many people leaving the Golden State. A fair share of liberal Californians have been pushed into places like Las Vegas and Phoenix because they’re prioritizing affordability,” Marr said. “That doesn’t appear to be true if you only consider that Democrats have lost more voter share than Republicans in Nevada and Arizona–but the increase in voters registered as “other,” especially in Nevada, likely accounts for a big portion of the newcomers.”

Purple (swing) counties in Nevada and Arizona becoming more diverse in 2021, partly as a result of migration, could also favor the Democratic candidates.

To read the full report, including more data, charts, and methodology, click here.

About Author: Demetria Lester

Demetria C. Lester is a reporter for DS News and MReport magazines with more than eight years' writing experience. She has served as content coordinator and copy editor for the Los Angeles Daily News, the Orange County Register, in addition to 11 other Southern California publications. A former editor-in-chief at Northlake College and staff writer at her alma mater, the University of Texas at Arlington, she has covered events such as the Byron Nelson and Pac-12 Conferences, progressing into her freelance work with the Dallas Wings and D Magazine. Currently located in Dallas, Texas, Lester is a jazz aesthete and loves to read. She can be reached at [email protected]
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