Did pandemic migrations decide Georgia’s runoff Senate races?

Georgia’s runoff Senate races ended in huge Democrat victories fueled by an influx of Democrats moving into the state.

Key Findings:

  • Between Mar 11–Nov 23, 2020, moveBuddha assisted 4,474 people with their move to Georgia, where 74.8% of residents relocated from counties that voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 Presidential Election. Coincidentally, 74.5% of these residents moved to Georgia counties that also voted for Biden in 2020.
  • The Top 3 contributing states for new Georgia residents are California (15.6%), Florida (9.7%), and New York (8%), which replaced Georgia’s typical inbound migrations from Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina.
  • Georgia received the highest influx of new residents from New York City, whose five boroughs totaled 64.6% of New York’s entire outbound population. Following NYC are fellow Democrat cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, and San Francisco.
  • Atlanta saw the highest influx of residents, receiving 31.4% of all new residents in 2020. Runner-up cities include Savannah (5.3%), Alpharetta (5.2%), and Marietta (4.2%)— whose counties voted Democrat in 2020, as well.

Georgia’s huge Democrat wins in the Senate runoffs may be due in part to pandemic migrations from 2020, where thousands of Americans left expensive and largely Democrat cities in search of affordable costs of living.

The state of Georgia was particularly popular for pandemic movers, according to moveBuddha, who assisted 4,474 people in moving to the state between Mar 11 — Nov. 23, 2020, alone.

Data provided by moveBuddha reveals 74.8% of incoming Georgia residents moved from counties that voted for Democrat President-elect Joe Biden in the 2020 Presidential Election.

Approximately 74.5% of these residents moved to Georgia counties that also voted for Biden, suggesting political affiliation of outbound locations (cities-of-origin) may have played a role in the recent Democrat victories.

What do 3,334 new Democrats mean for Georgia?

The high number of possible incoming Democrats contrasts with the state’s withstanding politics, whose elections have favored the Republican party since 1996. But despite the state’s conservative history, Georgia voters managed to flip the state in November 2020, allowing Democrat President-elect Joe Biden to secure the state’s 16 electoral votes with a .2% lead.

However, the increase in Georgia’s Democrat voters is not a direct result of pandemic migrations in itself. The rising influence of Georgia’s Democrats is largely a reflection of organized leadership to curb voter suppression and encourage participation from historically disenfranchised populations.[1]

In fact, Georgia’s registered voting data indicates that counties that supported Biden have less than 21% of the state’s “white, non-Hispanic voters” and account for 55% of the state’s registered voters.[2] Put another way— approximately 52.8% of Georgia’s registered voters are “white, non-Hispanic” and roughly 70% of them live in counties that voted for Trump.

If county elections are any indication of the average voting citizen, there’s a chance that Georgia received 3,344 new Democrats in 2020— potentially enough to flip the state blue in future elections.

Which states are new Georgia residents moving from?

The Top 3 contributing states for new Georgia residents are California (15.6%), Florida (9.7%), and New York (8%), whose former residents replaced Georgia’s typical outbound population[3] from red states like Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina.

The Republican-led states of Texas and Florida are also top-ranking contributors, although 76.2% of their residents relocated from Democrat-leaning cities, such as Austin, Houston, and Dallas.

The Top Outbound States for Georgia in 2020
Rank Outbound State Total Outbound Residents Total from Rep. Counties % Total from Dem. Counties %
#1 California 698 30 4.3% 668 95.7%
#2 Florida 434 150 34.6% 284 65.4%
#3 New York 356 45 12.6% 311 87.4%
#4 Texas 227 92 40.5% 135 59.5%
#5 Illinois 215 23 10.7% 192 89.3%
#6 Virginia 192 17 8.9% 175 91.1%
#7 New Jersey 161 17 10.6% 144 89.4%
#8 North Carolina 158 42 26.6% 116 73.4%
#9 Washington 144 14 9.7% 130 90.3%
#10 Ohio 140 94 67.1% 46 32.9%
#11 Pennsylvania 140 34 24.3% 106 75.7%
#12 Tennessee 112 82 73.2% 30 26.8%
#13 Arizona 109 10 9.2% 98 89.9%
#14 Massachusetts 108 1 0.9% 107 99.1%
#15 Maryland 104 6 5.8% 98 94.2%
#16 Michigan 102 21 20.6% 81 79.4%
#17 Alabama 89 48 53.9% 41 46.1%
#18 South Carolina 80 51 63.8% 29 36.3%
#19 Connecticut 71 9 12.7% 62 87.3%
#20 Colorado 71 14 19.7% 57 80.3%
#21 Missouri 68 16 23.5% 52 76.5%
#22 Indiana 66 34 51.5% 32 48.5%
#23 Wisconsin 63 29 46% 34 54%
#24 Minnesota 45 8 17.8% 37 82.2%
#25 Oregon 44 3 6.8% 41 93.2%
#26 Utah 42 24 57.1% 18 42.9%
#27 Nevada 42 3 7.1% 39 92.9%
#28 Louisiana 41 21 51.2% 20 48.8%
#29 Mississippi 39 26 66.7% 13 33.3%
#30 Kansas 35 18 51.4% 17 48.6%
#31 District of Columbia 33 0 0% 33 100%
#32 Arkansas 26 23 88.5% 3 11.5%
#33 West Virginia 22 22 100% 0 0%
#34 Kentucky 21 9 42.9% 12 57.1%
#35 Oklahoma 21 21 100% 0 0%
#36 Nebraska 19 8 42.1% 11 57.9%
#37 Iowa 17 6 35.3% 11 64.7%
#38 Rhode Island 13 0 0% 13 100%
#39 Idaho 11 10 90.9% 1 9.1%
#40 Maine 11 3 27.3% 8 72.7%
#41 Montana 10 5 50% 5 50%
#42 New Mexico 10 4 40% 6 60%
#43 New Hampshire 9 4 44.4% 5 55.6%
#44 Hawaii 9 0 0% 9 100%
#45 North Dakota 8 8 100% 0 0%
#46 Wyoming 7 7 100% 0 0%
#47 Vermont 7 0 0% 7 100%
#48 Delaware 7 0 0% 7 100%
#49 Alaska 5 5 100% 0 0%
#50 South Dakota 2 2 100% 0 0%
Totals (U.S.) 4,464 1,119 25.1% 3,344 74.9%

Data source: moveBuddha’s Moving Cost Calculator Data, NBC News

Data points:

  • Every resident from Washington D.C., Rhode Island, Hawaii, Vermont, and Delaware relocated from Democrat counties.
  • Top states with the highest concentration of likely Democrats are Massachusetts (99.1%), California (95.7%), Maryland (94.2%), Virginia (99.1%), and Washington (90.3%).
  • The majority of residents from Idaho, Arkansas, and Tennessee relocated from counties that voted for Trump, whereas all 65 movers from West Virginia, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Wyoming, Alaska, and South Dakota originated from Republican counties.
  • Although Trump won Alabama, Louisiana, and Kentucky with a 20—28% margin over Biden, 50% of the states’ former residents came from Democrat counties.

Twelve of the Top 20 states are more likely to elect Democrat presidents and governors

The Top 20 outbound states account for 83.1% of all incoming Georgia residents and include 12 states with a history of electing Democrat presidential nominees over 67% of the time since 2000.

Only four top states have not elected a Democrat president in the last twenty years, which are Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, and South Carolina (13.7% of all incoming residents). Georgia, itself, has not elected a Democrat president since 1992, making Joe Biden’s win all the more surprising.[4]

The Top 20 outbound states also feature three more Democrat governors than Republicans (12:9), including five current Democrats who succeeded a former Republican official.

There is, however, one discrepancy that could dispel the notion of Democrat-majority states: 47.1% of all Georgia-bound residents moved from 28 states whose legislature is now controlled by Republicans.[5]

Only 51.4% of outbound residents represent states with Democrat-controlled legislatures (19 states in total). The remaining 64 residents (1.4%) come from Minnesota (split legislature) and Nebraska (nonpartisan).

Which cities are new Georgia residents coming from?

Georgia received the highest influx of new residents from New York City, where the city’s five boroughs totaled 64.6% of New York’s entire outbound population. More than 86% of NYC’s outbound population came from Brooklyn (82), Manhattan (68), and Queens (48).

Droves of Californians also relocated to Georgia from top-ranking cities like Los Angeles (No. 2) and San Francisco (No. 5)— and that’s without the help of their greater metropolitan areas. San Diego (No. 11), Oakland (No. 23), and San Jose (No. 26) placed in the Top 30, while Sunnyvale, Sacramento, Tracy, Scotts Dale, and Long Beach are present in the Top 100.

Chicago contributed the third-largest number of incoming Georgia residents (1.6%) in 2020. In fact, the greater Chicago area (aka “Chicagoland”) represents 79.5% of outbound Illinoisians and 171 (3.8%) of all incoming Georgia residents.

Top 30 Outbound Cities to Georgia in 2020
Rank Outbound Location County / Township Total % Mayor Party Vote % for Rep. President General Election Winner
#1 New York, NY Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Staten Island, Queens 230 5.2% D *20.3% Biden (D)
#2 Los Angeles, CA Los Angeles 107 2.4% D 26.9% Biden (D)
#3 Chicago, IL Cook 72 1.6% D 24.0% Biden (D)
#4 Seattle, WA King 54 1.2% D 22.2% Biden (D)
#5 San Francisco, CA San Francisco 43 1.0% D 37.5% Biden (D)
#6 Miami, FL Miami-Dade 39 0.9% R 46.1% Biden (D)
#7 Philadelphia, PA Philadelphia 38 0.9% D 17.9% Biden (D)
#8 Houston, TX Fort Bend, Harris, Montgomery 35 0.8% D *47% Biden (D)
#9 Birmingham, AL Jefferson 33 0.7% D 42.6% Biden (D)
#10 Washington, D.C. D.C. 33 0.7% D 5.4% Biden (D)
#11 San Diego, CA San Diego 33 0.7% D 37.5% Biden (D)
#12 West Palm Beach, FL Palm Beach 32 0.7% D 43.3% Biden (D)
#13 Boston, MA Boston 32 0.7% D 15.5% Biden (D)
#14 Jacksonville, FL Duval 30 0.7% R 47.4% Biden (D)
#15 Charlotte, NC Mecklenburg 29 0.7% D 31.6% Biden (D)
#16 Columbia, MO Boone 28 0.7% D 42.4% Biden (D)
#17 Tampa, FL Hillsborough 28 0.6% D 46.0% Biden (D)
#18 Richmond, VA Henrico 26 0.6% D 34.6% Biden (D)
#19 Denver, CO Denver 24 0.5% D 18.2% Biden (D)
#20 Alexandria, VA Arlington 23 0.5% D 17.1% Biden (D)
#21 Portland, OR Multnomah 23 0.5% D 17.9% Biden (D)
#22 Orlando, FL Orange 23 0.5% D 44.5% Biden (D)
#23 Oakland, CA Alameda 22 0.5% D 17.7% Biden (D)
#24 Pittsburgh, PA Allegheny 22 0.5% D 39.0% Biden (D)
#25 Fort Lauderdale, FL Broward 21 0.5% D 34.8% Biden (D)
#26 San Jose, CA Santa Clara 21 0.5% D 25.2% Biden (D)
#27 Arlington, VA Arlington 20 0.5% R 17.1% Biden (D)
#28 San Antonio, TX Bexar 20 0.5% I 40.1% Biden (D)
#29 Las Vegas, NV Clark 20 0.5% I 44.3% Biden (D)
#30 Tucson, AZ Pima 20 0.5% D 39.9% Biden (D)

Date Key: D (Democrat), R (Republican), I (Independent), NP (Nonpartisan).
*Voting results for Houston and New York City are calculated by adding their counties’ accumulative votes.
Data source: moveBuddha’s Moving Cost Calculator Data, NBC News

Data Points:

  • The Top 30 Outbound Cities represent 26.5% of all outbound traffic to Georgia in 2020.
  • Six top-ranking cities are located in Florida and include Miami (No. 6), West Palm Beach (No. 12), and Tampa (No. 17).
  • Approximately 183 residents moved from Seattle, San Francisco, D.C., Boston, and San Jose, which Bloomberg ranks within their Top 20 Tech Hubs of 2019.[6]

Once again, the Top 30 cities appear to prefer Democrat leadership

The Top 30 outbound cities also suggest a strong Democrat presence, as 25 out of 30 cities elected a Democrat mayor in recent elections (and the presence of Democrat leadership doesn’t end there).

In a sample of 150 outbound locations containing 43% of movers, nearly 71% of outbound cities have Democrat mayors. Meanwhile, the percentage of Republican, Independent, or Nonpartisan officials stalled behind at 22.7% (R), 4% (NP), and 2.7% (I).

Last but not least — Joe Biden won the majority vote for every outbound city in the Top 30, where Republican incumbent Donald J. Trump only earned an average of 31.3% of voters total.

What are the top moving destinations in Georgia?

Atlanta led the rankings with 31.4% of all incoming Georgia residents, while Savannah came in at No. 2 with 5.3% of inbound traffic. Runner-up cities included Alpharetta at No. 3 and Marietta at No. 4, which join 12 other cities within the Atlanta — Sandy Springs — Alpharetta Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA).

Georgia’s Top 20 Moving Destinations in 2020
Rank City / Town Inbound % Total Inbound County Vote % for Rep. President County Election Winner
#1 Atlanta 1404 31.4% Fulton, DeKalb *22.1% Biden (D)
#2 Savannah 235 5.3% Chatham 39.9% Biden (D)
#3 Alpharetta 232 5.2% Fulton 26.2% Biden (D)
#4 Marietta 187 4.2% Cobb 42.0% Biden (D)
#5 Athens 109 2.4% Clarke 28.1% Biden (D)
#6 Cumming 100 2.2% Forsyth 65.8% Trump (R)
#7 Duluth 99 2.2% Gwinnett 40.2% Biden (D)
#8 Decatur 94 2.1% DeKalb 15.7% Biden (D)
#9 Lawrenceville 93 2.1% Gwinnett 40.2% Biden (D)
#10 McRae-Helena 86 1.9% Telfair 65.2% Trump (R)
#11 Augusta 78 1.7% Richmond 30.8% Biden (D)
#12 Suwanee 55 1.2% Gwinnett 40.2% Biden (D)
#13 Buford 48 1.1% Gwinnett 46.3% Biden (D)
#14 Roswell 44 1.0% Fulton 26.2% Biden (D)
#15 Woodstock 43 1.0% Cherokee 68.8% Trump (R)
#16 Smyrna 42 0.9% Cobb 42.0% Biden (D)
#17 Canton 40 0.9% Cherokee 68.8% Trump (R)
#18 Kennesaw 39 0.9% Cobb 42.0% Biden (D)
#19 Gainesville 36 0.8% Hall 70.9% Trump (R)
#20 Macon 35 0.8% Bibb 37.6% Biden (D)

*The voting result for Atlanta represents the cumulative votes of Fulton and DeKalb counties.
Data source: moveBuddha’s Moving Cost Calculator Data, NBC News

Data points:

  • The greater Atlanta region is the ninth-largest MSA in the country and accounts for 69.5% of incoming Georgia residents.[7]
  • The only nonmetropolitan city in the Top 20 is McRae — Helena (formerly Helena) in the central county of Telfair.
  • The city of Woodstock (No. 15) was recently featured by Money as the 17th best place to live in 2020.[8] The finance magazine’s number one city went to Evans, Georgia, a suburb of Augusta (No. 11).

Democrat-voting counties received the most inbound residents in 2020

Approximately 3,331 (74.5%) incoming residents moved to cities within counties that voted for Joe Biden or collectively won a majority Democrat vote (between two or more counties). But even if we omit cities with competing county results, the number of inbound residents to Democrat cities only narrows to 3,301 (73.8%).

Of everyone who moved to Democrat-leaning cities, 85.2% of them moved to the following counties:

  • 1. Fulton (30.4%)
  • 2. DeKalb (26.4%)
  • 3. Gwinnet (11.3%)
  • 4. Cobb (10.1%)
  • 5. Chatham (8.2%)

Likewise, 1,078 (24.1%) inbound residents relocated to cities in counties that consistently favor Republicans. For this particular population, 33.6% of movers moved to the following Republican-voting counties:

  • 1. Forsyth (9.3%)
  • 2. Cherokee (8.2%)
  • 3. Telfair (8.0%)
  • 4. Columbia (4.1%)
  • 5. Hall (4.1%)

What does Georgia’s inbound migration say about future elections?

While it may be a coincidence that Georgia’s incoming voter demographics parallel with that of their new counties, the concentration of inbound residents in Democrat and Republican counties speaks volumes to how the state currently votes and how it can change in the future.

For instance, NBC News’ 2020 election map of Georgia displays 30 blue (Democrat) counties surrounded by 129 red (Republican) counties, leaving some people to believe the election results are false or misrepresentative of the state.[9]

But what the election map does not explicitly show is how 104 Republican counties contain less than 50,000 people, which collectively only totals 19.4% of the state. The remaining 25 red counties consist of 50-259K people each (27%), meaning that 81% of the state shown in red consists of 46.4% of Georgia’s population.

The 30 counties shown in blue account for 53.6% of Georgia’s population (over 5.6 million people) and 71.6% of Biden’s voting base. The same observations about Georgia’s voter populations appear to reflect the way people are migrating to the state.

To this point, we recognize there are many Republicans within Democrat regions and that someone’s residence does not always reflect their political views. But how an individual votes can significantly affect their county’s political climate, and if rural counties start receiving voters with different political views, smaller communities will inevitably change to reflect their growing population.

Where are Georgia’s most “flippable” counties?

There are 53 counties in Georgia that are more susceptible to incoming migration, where the mere addition of 2,000 partisan votes can “flip” an election. Georgia counties with the most fragile voting leads include Washington, Baldwin, and Quitman, who would need less than 200 votes to change their previous Senate election results.

Twenty-eight of the 53 flippable counties received at least 171 new residents in 2020 (depending on which county inbound residents of Adrian and Vidalia moved to). But while none of the inbound counties received enough residents to affect their elections, they collectively account for 3.1% of the state’s registered voters — which is enough to offset low voter turnouts in the most predictable areas.

Inbound Georgia Counties with Narrow Senate Election Margins
County Reg. Voters Lead Party Voter Turnout (ave.) Flip Margin (ave.) Senate Election Voters (ave.) Total Potential New Voters (ave.) Inbound Residents
Washington 12,994 Split 71.1% 92 9,239 3,903 6
Baldwin 26,742 Split 67.4% 103 18,012 9,138 1
Quitman 1,553 R 69.6% 123 1,082 488 2
Chattahoochee 3,943 R 39.1% 207 1,541 2,460 8
Randolph 4,338 D 69.9% 235 3,032 1,344 1
Terrell 6,625 D 65.8% 256 4,362 2,330 3
Warren 3,789 D 68.6% 262 2,599 1,235 1
Calhoun 3,187 D 67.9% 288 2,164 1,055 5
Burke 16,570 R 63.4% 315 10,513 6,214 3
Stewart 2,909 D 66.3% 340 1,930 1,012 2
Jefferson 11,350 D 66.2% 405 7,510 3,943 2
Wilkinson 6,484 R 72.4% 575 4,697 1,861 2
Peach 18,164 R 68.3% 691 12,399 6,008 20
Wilkes 6,836 R 72.1% 744 4,928 1,984 1
Turner 5,604 R 66.5% 969 3,729 1,945 1
Macon 7,079 D 64.6% 976 4,573 2,573 1
Taylor 5,405 R 69.9% 1,056 3,781 1,693 1
Mitchell 13,481 R 65.6% 1,069 8,841 4,753 6
Telfair 6,076 R 69.5% 1,277 4,222 1,912 86
Long 9,683 R 57.3% 1,354 5,551 4,300 2
Clinch 4,345 R 63.3% 1,386 2,749 1,650 5
McIntosh 9,320 R 70.3% 1,435 6,550 2,904 5
Lanier 5,496 R 63.2% 1,514 3,474 2,120 4
Brooks 11,170 R 61.8% 1,589 6,906 4,393 1
Pulaski 5,712 R 69.9% 1,604 3,992 1,787 1
Johnson 5,610 R 71.3% 1,639 3,998 1,676 *1
Lincoln 6,182 R 74.0% 1,753 4,577 1,685 1
Montgomery 5,467 R 71.0% 1,954 3,879 1,650 *3

Data Key:
D (Democrat), R (Republican), I (Independent), NP (Nonpartisan).
*One resident moved to Adrian (Emanuel and Johnson counties); three residents moved to Vidalia (Montgomery and Toombs counties).
**Totals for voter turnouts, flip margins, and Senate race voters are averaged between the results for Georgia’s Senate and Senate Special elections in 2020.
*** “Total potential new voters” is an average between both senate races and accounts for: A.) Voters who selected candidates who are not running in the upcoming runoff, and; B.) all registered voters who did not submit their ballots in the general election.

Data source: moveBuddha’s Moving Cost Calculator Data, Georgia Sectretary of State, NBC News

Methodology

All moving data is provided by moveBuddha’s Moving Cost Calculator tool. County election results for all 50 U.S. states reflect data from NBC News’ coverage of the Presidential Election of 2020. All results are current as of December 16, 2020, at 5:58 p.m. (E.T.).

The election results of locations with two or more corresponding counties are calculated by adding the total number of votes from each county (unless one county significantly represents a primary population over the other). All population data reflect the U.S. Census Bureau’s Annual Estimates of Resident Populations in 2019.

Sources:
[1] Stuart, T. “What the Democratic Party Can Learn From Stacey Abrams’ Success in Georgia.” Rolling Stone, Rollingstone.com, 2 Dec 2020. Link.
[2] Office of Brad Raffendprthrt. “Active Voters by Race and Gender (By County with Statewide Totals.” Georgia Secretary of State, 2020. Link.
[3] “State-to-State Migration Flows 2018–2019.” U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Commerce, 2020. Link.
[4] “Recent Presidential Elections.” 270towin.com, 2020. Link.
[5] “Postelection Partisan Legislative Control.” National Conference of State Legislatures, NCSL.org, 2020. Link.
[6] Del Giudice, V., Lu, W. “These are America’s New Top Tech Hubs.” Bloomberg, Bloomberg.com, 18 Nov 2020. Link.
[7] “2019 County Metro Population Estimates: Top 10 Most Populous Metropolitan Areas.” U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Commerce, 2020. Link.
[8] Bhardwaj, P., et al. “The Best Places to Live in America.” Money, Money.com, Sept 2020. Link.
[9] Amy, J., Brumback, K. “Some Republicans attack Georgia votes, provide no evidence.” AP News, APNews.com, 9 Nov 2020. Link.

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