International Policy Digest

U.S. News /07 Sep 2020
09.07.20

How Demographics Will Change Voting Patterns in the United States

It is an axiom in American politics that the United States is split between rural and urban areas. In the major cities, and outlying districts, the political hue has been uniformly liberal and colored blue. In the rural areas, the political hue has been decidedly conservative and colored red. The rural areas have consistently voted for Republicans, while the urban areas have consistently voted for Democrats.

This has been driven in part by the types of employment offered in different parts of the country. Those industries requiring a higher level of education, particularly involving STEM education, are concentrated on both sides of the country, mostly along the Pacific and the Northeastern Atlantic. Those states on the Pacific Ocean and Northeastern part of the United States, are populated with industries that are dependent on a highly educated workforce. This would explain the voting patterns of the past presidential elections where these states uniformly voted for Democrats. North Carolina, a former red state has turned purple, with South Carolina, and Georgia remaining ruby red and Florida may be trending blue.

The states whose industries are agricultural in nature, and are in the American heartland, along with the Deep South, have consistently voted for Republicans.

These demographics are beginning to change due to economics, migration from high-cost states to lower-cost states, and potentially the COVID-19 virus. With the change to telecommuting and working at home instead of concentrating in an office setting, the population on the West Coast is beginning to shift away from major population centers, to the hinterland states adjacent to the Pacific Ocean states. The Northeastern Atlantic states appear to be following suit. In so doing, this population shift will bring with it liberal opinions and beliefs and will dilute the voting patterns of the current conservative bedrock states that normally would support Republicans. A consequence as well will be some formerly blue states turning purple, and possibly red.

The Invasion of Idaho, Texas, and Arizona

While Texas has been cited as the state receiving the most influx of Americans moving from California, Idaho has also recently seen a tremendous influx of Californians fleeing the high cost of living in San Francisco to Idaho. In October of last year, Boise mayoral candidate Wayne Richey proposed building a wall, with a price tag of $26 billion, to keep Californians out.

Six years ago, the sleepy town of Star, Idaho had a population of 6,000 people. Today, it is 10,000 with the population expected to reach 35,000 in 2040. The number of Californians moving to Idaho has tripled to 120% from 2012 to 2018.

According to a 2020 Texas Relocation Report published by the Texas Realtor’s Association, the number of Californians moving into the Lone Star State increased by 36% with the Tarrant county area receiving the most newcomers. Texas had a net influx of 101,583 new state residents for the year 2019. That is compared to 57,000 newcomers in 2018.

Arizona has also seen an increase in population due to the high cost of living in California. Arizona saw an increase of 262,000 people in 2018, with 62,000 from the state of California alone.

Tech Giants are Making Telecommuting Permanent

Prior to the COVID pandemic, telecommuting was confined to roughly 7% of the workplace. With the advent of the pandemic, telecommuting is rapidly becoming the norm where work can be performed remotely. Those occupations that require manual inputs will suffer because of this shift. Cleaning personnel, building security jobs, and other manual labor will decrease as demand for their services will decrease.

In a live-streamed staff meeting, Mark Zuckerberg announced on May 21 that Facebook would make permanent the option for its employees to work from home. One of the downsides for those choosing to work remotely is that Facebook will reduce their pay based on the locality of where they live. Even with a reduction in locality pay, salaries associated with Facebook are typically on the high end of the employment scale and would allow those workers to afford better living conditions than if they stayed around major metropolitan areas.

Twitter, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, announced in March that all workers capable of working from home would do so immediately. This policy was updated in May when Twitter announced a permanent telecommute arrangement for its workers who were capable of doing their jobs online.

Apple had planned to bring back remote workers to its corporate offices beginning in the summer, but CEO Tim Cook announced that Apple’s remote workers can continue working from home until early 2021. Cook left open the possibility that these temporary actions may be made permanent.

Google and Amazon have not yet formulated plans to allow workers to telecommute permanently.

Zoom, which provides telecommuting services to individuals and companies, reported a tremendous growth in sales in the first quarter of 2020.

The video teleconference company increased its gross earnings to $382.2 million in the first quarter of 2020 as compared to gross earnings of $122 million last year. For the full year, Zoom expects full-year gross earnings from $1.78 billion to $1.8 billion.

Zoom’s net income was $27 million in the first quarter of 2020 as compared to a net income of $200 thousand in the same quarter in 2019.

Telecommuting is Affecting the Service Economies of Large Cities

With offices becoming empty, service sector jobs are evaporating as a direct consequence of telecommuting.

In an article from the New York Times on September 4, the loss of service sector jobs is described in great detail. Some service workers are turning to higher education to try and adjust to the new economy. Some cling to the forlorn hope that service sector jobs will return.

However, the fact that many service jobs have disappeared is inescapable and will lead to some service workers abandoning the large cities and seeking employment elsewhere.

In any event, COVID appears to be accelerating the change to telecommuting, and many telecommute jobs that were supposed to be temporary will become permanent. The Pew Research Institute estimates that one-fifth of Americans have moved because of the COVID-19 virus, assisted by the ability to telecommute to their work.

By being able to telecommute to work, some employees are moving to states where homes are less expensive, and social distancing is easier to practice due to the space availability in rural areas.

The economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are still not clearly understood. A clear projection is that telecommuting is well on its way to becoming the norm for office work. While person to person meetings will still happen, they will become the exception, rather than the norm.