The Politics of Migration: Blunting the “Fish Hook”

One item that caught my eye in the new Manhattan Institute study on migration out of California — examined more extensively on this page today by Loren Kaye — is the idea that there has been a greater migration to other states from Southern California than from Northern California. Does that explain California becoming a stronger Democratic state?

For years, Northern California and Coastal California have been considered liberal strongholds in the state. Republicans held on to the famous “fish hook” theory to win elections. Carry inland California down the Central Valley and hook back through San Diego County and up through Orange County into southern Los Angeles County –basically the shape of a fish hook — to carry the day.

However, the curve and the needle of the hook have been blunted in recent decades.

Maybe the Manhattan Institute report tells us why.

According to the study, “Southern California had about 55 percent of the state’s population in 2000 but accounted for about 65 percent of the net out-migration in the decade that followed.” The study noted that many of those SoCal migrants headed to Texas, with 70 percent of the state’s net migration to Texas coming from California’s southern regions. Let us note that Texas has a deep red hue on the political map.

Out-migration balanced against in-migration was highest in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. Also, San Diego County ranked high in the out-migration category, as did Orange and Los Angeles Counties. Generally speaking four of those counties could be relied on for strong Republican votes over the decades.

Of course, not every voter who left was a Republican. However, the large drop in Republican registration occurred in step with the migration.

In contrast, the Bay Area had a much lower migration rate — below the state average. Of course, Bay Area advocates would say, “Why would anyone want to leave here?” Still, that area of the state is known for its liberal politics.

So, it’s a fair question to ask: Did more Republicans leave the state than Democrats?

The researchers didn’t break down the migrants according to political party and told me they couldn’t answer that question. However, given the time period, the areas of the state where the major movement occurred, and the recent political alignment in California politics, it is a reasonable conclusion.

(Joel Fox is the Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee. Originally posted on Fox & Hounds.)