Mar 16, 2022 - News

Poll: Young Republicans eye Austin as No. 1 destination

Where college students most want to live after graduation
Data: Generation Lab/Axios research; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Young Republicans want to move to Austin — and young Dems are aiming for the coasts.

Driving the news: Austin is America's tenth most-desired post-graduation destination for college students, according to a new Axios-Generation Lab Next Cities Index poll.

The big picture: The data adds to a growing question about the political makeup of Austin's newcomers.

Between the lines: Political party identification correlated with students' broader preferences.

  • Austin was the top choice for young Republicans who want to leave their home state after graduation.
  • New York led the list for young Democrats.
  • Seattle won big with independents.

Of note: Austin didn't appear among the top 15 cities for Democrats, and New York didn't show up on the top 15 cities for young GOP members.

What they're saying: Pointing to a viral Instagram post of new Austinites Elon Musk and Joe Rogan hanging out with Dave Chappelle at Stubb's BBQ in January 2021, essayist James Rushing Daniel described the city's commitment to progressive neoliberalism.

  • "For years, Austin has embodied this paradigm with pro-business policies and a socially liberal worldview," he wrote in Jacobin in October — in other words, the kind of views that might attract some young Republicans.

Zoom out: Half of the survey's 2,109 respondents said they want to live outside of their home states after graduation; about 1 in 4 want to go back to their hometowns.

  • Denver and Boston filled out the top five wish list, after Seattle, New York City and Los Angeles.
  • Health care was the top industry choice for careers (29%), followed by education, research (15%) and tech (12%).

Be smart: The pandemic didn't dictate the destination calculus for any of the students interviewed by Axios. But the resulting explosion of remote work did shape some students' thinking about how far from family they choose to move — and whether work from home is all it was cracked up to be.

Yes, but: Reality and dreams don't always align; 45% said they want to live somewhere different than they think they will.

  • Aubree Rodriguez, 19, a student at Blinn College in Texas, told Axios that while she wants to be in Seattle, she's unlikely to go without her family, and her "family has lived in Texas for decades, and the majority of them are not the biggest fans of cold weather."

Our thought bubble: Austin is still the blueberry in the tomato soup.

  • Democrats reign very much supreme in local politics, even as a 45-minute drive out of town gets you to Trump country.
  • And by the way, between the University of Texas and young people flocking to these shores for tech jobs or just sticking around after SXSW, there's no shortage of progressives landing in Austin.

Methodology: This study was conducted in two waves from Nov. 18, 2021, through Feb. 14, 2022, from a representative sample of 2,109 students nationwide from two-year and four-year schools.

  • The margin of error is +/- 2.1 percentage points. The Generation Lab conducts polling using a demographically representative sample frame of college students at community colleges, technical colleges, trade schools and public and private four-year institutions.

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