Issues & Insights

As Millions Flee Blue States, Red States Need To Remind Them Why

New Census data show that roughly half of the states had net gains in population in 2022, and the other half net losses, thanks to what’s called internal migration. The winners were almost entirely red states, the losers blue. There’s a huge opportunity for conservatives, if they seize it.

Think about this migration trend for a minute. The map below shows the net migration of hundreds of thousands of people in 2022. (On this map, which is a screenshot from CBS News’ website, the redder a state the more people it lost, and the bluer the more it gained.)

Source: CBS News

Notice anything? If you didn’t, check out the map we created based on how states voted for president in the past six elections. In this case red means they voted for Republican candidates in more than three of those elections; blue means they voted for Democrats most of the time. (Only one state, Iowa, split down the middle.)

I&I Chart

The two maps look almost identical, with red and blue colors switched.

This isn’t a new trend. People have been fleeing leftist strongholds such as California, New York, and Illinois for many years.

What’s interesting about the new data is that they come in the wake of COVID, when the different approaches taken by states could not have been starker. California, New York, Illinois, Michigan, and the like used COVID to exercise maximum control over their residents – with mandates, curfews, lockdowns, and school closures.

These states received fulsome praise from every elite corner for “following the science.”

States such as Florida, in contrast, put their trust in their people, and were loudly denounced. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was the bête noir of the we-believe-in-science crowd, which accused him of being complicit in murder.

As The Hill put it in late 2021, “A dark cloud hangs over the Sunshine State. COVID-19, fueled by delta variant, is running rampant in Florida and Gov. Ron DeSantis is losing the race to stop the spread of the pandemic.”

Anytime there was an uptick in cases in one of these states, it made national news, with everyone from President Joe Biden on down tut-tutting them.

But despite this barrage, millions fled states that were “cracking down” on COVID for those that had taken a more laissez-faire approach.

To the liberal media, this is something of a mystery. CBS News says that the reason red states gained population was that many have “job markets that grew faster than average during the pandemic” and “housing is more affordable and available than in parts of the country that lost residents.”

But it doesn’t even attempt to explain why these differences exist. Was it just dumb luck? Good weather? Magic?

Of course not. The reason jobs are plentiful and housing prices low in red states is precisely because they didn’t act like socialist dictators during COVID. And for years before COVID they tended to pursue conservative economic policies – low taxes, fiscal prudence, a pro-business climate – that the left routinely dismisses as “trickle-down economics.”

The problem is that far too many of these internal migrants take their ideology with them and push for the same leftist politicians and the same policies that they just fled.

It would be like Cuban refugees all voting for Castroite candidates and socialist policies as soon as they land in Florida.

This disconnect between knowing things are bad but not knowing why is troubling, if for no other reason than that blue flight ends up more like a socialist virus than a win for free markets. The more people leave places like California for more hospitable climes, the more those states start to turn blue.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Conservatives need to learn how to welcome their new additions with smiles on their faces and brochures in their hands explaining why it is that the freedom they just chose is better than the socialistic oppression they fled. Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds has been advocating a “welcome wagon” for years.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott took a step in this direction. A couple of years ago he tweeted: “To the Californians moving to Texas: Remember those high taxes, burdensome regulations, & socialistic agenda advanced in CA? We don’t believe in that. We believe in less government & more individual freedom. If you agree with that, you’ll fit right in.”

We need much more of that attitude. Otherwise, the mass migration will only spread the disease of leftism further and deeper into the nation’s bloodstream.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board

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The Issues and Insights Editorial Board has decades of experience in journalism, commentary and public policy.


  • Unfortunately, many people today lack the common sense to understand the obvious. These mental giants bring their politics with them in many cases. Then they’ll wonder what happens to their utopia. Austin, TX comes to mind.

  • Our motto: “We don’t care how you did things where you came from, you are in Wyoming now.”

  • I live in a west Texas city which is now being inundated with CALIFORNIA transplants. That’s fine, except MANY of them are bringing their “woke” ideology with them! A new, across the street neighbor, still with California tags on their BMW has a BIG “Biden/Harris” sticker on the rear window! My wife went over to greet our new neighbors and the lady almost immediately launched criticism of Greg Abbott, our Governor! She is after all, an admirer of BOZO 0’dork! We will most likely not be inviting them to our home anytime soon!

  • If you look one layer lower, people’s strategy to deal with rising costs of living in so-called “Blue States” is to move to a “Blue City in an Island of Red” but with the repeal of Roe and a number of very harsh laws in these so called “Red States” it has become much harder to be pregnant and raise families in these “Red States”

    Also many Red states are stripping away autonomy in “Blue Islands” too, so they hurt their special sauce.

    Be interesting to see if these gain survive this decade as a result. Businesses are already avoiding increasingly hostile state governments in “Red States” (Texas lost out to Syracuse, NY of all places with a major semiconductor fab)

  • In fact, once-purplish Florida has gotten far redder even during the in-migration (despite our fears to the contrary). Even the deep-blue counties here in South Florida. The reason: real, Reaganesque leadership on the right.

  • its a giant leftist trojan horse !
    there is a reason why most of the metropolitan areas in red states are blue , its because virtually all of the “newcomers” move into the major metropolitan areas so the left already in part succeeded in their quest to turn red states blue . Right now its the rural population that is keeping those states red but if we dont stop the invasion from blue states its game over soon

  • We fled Washington, after living there for 50+ years, for Texas two years ago and have never looked back. I became a RE agent, working almost exclusively with people fleeing the Left Coast. I refer to myself as a refugee resettlement specialist. I can assure you that the overwhelming number of people coming to Texas are conservative, fleeing rampant leftist insanity. Texas is red for quite some time. If it ever changes, it will not be because of people moving here from the Left Coast and other pockets of wokeism like Chicago and New York.

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