In 2019, for the first time since 2010, it was estimated that domestic out-migration from California was greater than migration into the state, resulting in a negative net migration from California of 39,500 residents.
Redfield & Wilton Strategies’ latest poll in California found that almost a third (31%) of Californians are considering moving away from California on a permanent basis.
Interestingly, nearly half (49%) of likely Trump voters in California say they are considering moving away, versus only 23% of likely Biden voters. This degree of difference may imply that the state’s political climate is one factor motivating some individuals to consider migration. California is a strongly liberal state and some Trump voters may want to be in a more conservative environment. There may also be policy concerns: while a large majority (58%) of Californians think taxes in California are too high and should be lowered, an even greater proportion (79%) of likely Trump voters feel this way about the state’s taxes. This sentiment could be a major factor behind their consideration of leaving the state.
Indeed, among those considering moving away, a fifth (20%) of likely Trump voters in California say they are thinking about moving to Texas, which has no state income tax.
Among overall respondents, the sunbelt states of Nevada, Arizona and Texas are popular potential destinations, together capturing a third (34%) of respondents’ preferences. In addition to low taxes, these states offer lots of space for a lower price, and a lower cost of living. California, by contrast, has four of the country’s five most expensive residential markets—Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Orange County, and San Diego. If the remote working trend continues after the pandemic, the lower property prices and greater space in these states might become even more attractive.
The coastal states of the Pacific Northwest, namely Washington (12%) and Oregon (10%), are also being considered by a significant proportion, perhaps due to their thriving economies and outdoors lifestyle. Moving abroad is also popular at 11%; Californians may be considering destinations like New Zealand, whose immigration site has seen record interest from Americans in recent months. The desire among some respondents to move abroad may be influenced by frustrations surrounding the US government’s response to the coronavirus.
However, only 19% of those considering moving are either ‘nearly certain’ or ‘reasonably likely’ to make the move this year. Altogether, about 6% of our overall sample is therefore ‘nearly certain’ or ‘reasonably likely’ to leave California this year. While this lower proportion, relative to the number considering leaving, could be due to uncertainty created by the pandemic, it is likely that for many respondents a move away from California is more of an abstract possibility rather than a fixed plan. Nearly half of respondents (48%) say it is quite unlikely that they will move this year. Many will also be wary of moving during the current economic conditions, perhaps explaining why so many respondents are doubtful that they will move this year.
It is clear that many Californians are constantly considering their options and assessing whether the state is the best place for them to be. At the same time, as the pandemic continues, many are likely to find it difficult to re-locate immediately, meaning that fears of a ‘California Exodus’ to other states like Texas may be exaggerated. However, it is possible that the trend of negative net migration could continue in the long term as residents continue to weigh up whether the opportunities provided by the Golden State outweigh the relatively high taxation and cost of living.