The Polling Center: California's Conservative Migration

Gov. Jerry Brown of California
Gov. Jerry Brown of California

Gov. Rick Perry’s very public, but mostly humorous, skirmish with California Gov. Jerry Brown started with the Texan’s overtures to California entrepreneurs sick of living in a sunshine state where it is apparently “next to impossible” to build a business. While it’s tempting to assume that Californians relocating to Texas are moving to the state’s big metropolises and bringing their liberal, “California” attitudes (I’m sure many of you think that I’m being redundant), data collected in the University of Texas/Texas Tribune polls tell a different story.

With its economic troubles, California has been losing people in droves. The plurality of those migrants have moved to Texas, as many as 70,000 in 2011 and 60,000 in 2012. Given this influx of new residents, we are fortunate to have at times asked our respondents whether they have moved to Texas from California, and though the actual number of these people is but a small subsample of our surveys, we have enough respondents to make two broad conclusions. First, these newcomers, on average, tend to be conservative. Pooling data from the May 2012 and February 2013 UT/Tribune surveys, we found that 57 percent of these California transplants consider themselves to be conservative, while only 27 percent consider themselves to be liberal (a fair guess as to the margin of error is somewhere around +/- 7 percentage points). Second, these new Texans aren’t rushing to find homes in the state’s urban centers: 55 percent are heading to the suburbs, the rest evenly dividing themselves between rural and urban locations.

So while some may want to perceive the wave of Californians coming to Texas as part of the broader demographic trends that might eventually turn Texas purple, and then blue, the data collected to date suggest that Perry’s pitch appears to be hitting a chord with Californians who wear cowboy boots instead of Birkenstocks.

 

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