Idaho’s Rapidly Changing Voter Demographics

In 2017, Idaho was identified by the U.S. Department of Commerce as the fastest growing state in the nation. More recently, a December 19, 2018 report by the KIDK Local Channel 8 News, the US Census Bureau identified Idaho as currently the second fastest growing state in the country, outpaced only by Nevada.

In 2012 and 2018, the US. Census Bureau tallied approximately 19,500 cities in the United States. Of all these cities, Boise, Idaho has recently been identified by USA Today as the 20th fastest growing city in the United States with a +14.7 percent population change between 2010-2017.

So where are these new residents coming from, and how will this affect future elections?

Using the data of more than 2 million one-way U-Haul rentals, Idaho is recognized as the 5th fastest growing state for U-Haul users. By comparing these states to the lowest three growth states, NBC News has identified California, Illinois, and Michigan as the primary states our new Idaho residents may have left to come here.

Interestingly, each of the five states recognized by U-Haul as top moving destinations were “red” in the 2016, while the three “bottom growth states” were ultra “blue” California, Illinois, and “purple” Michigan.

According to NBC News, “California, Illinois and Michigan all saw declines. That’s two reliable Democratic states on Election Day and one crucial battleground that has a long history of voting Democratic that are all seeing more U-Haul trucks moving out than pulling in. So on the most basic level, it looks like Red America is drawing people in and Blue America is sending people away.”

This information leaves the reader with several unanswered questions. For example: “Are these domestic migrants seeking a more ‘Republican’ lifestyle and environment, thus motivating their move to ‘red’ states?” If these domestic migrants are Republicans ‘fleeing’ blue or purple states, this will only make Idaho, Texas, Utah, Florida, and South Carolina even more red while leaving California, Illinois, and the battleground state Michigan even more blue.

On the other hand, Idahoans might ask, “Are these migrants actually leftists who come with no intention of changing?”

Ultimately, the data fails to answer some of the most important questions, “Why are they coming here, and how will this affect our state and local politics?”

Anticipating the recent election, a New York Times article entitled “What the Fastest Growth in the U.S. Means for Idaho Politics” stated, “No one is expecting a revolution; the long dominance by Republicans is almost certainly secure. Still, political experts said, the election could be pivotal for both parties as a measure of whether prosperity and new blood push Democrats and Republicans toward moderation, or away from it.”

The NBC News article paints the picture as red states leading blue voters away from their Democratic strongholds. However, only time will tell if these new residents have been drawn here to assimilate Idaho’s historically conservative culture, or if they come intending to bring California- and Illinois-style policies with them.