Talking Points

Democrats want to live with Democrats. So do Republicans.

Where do young, smart Republicans want to live more than anywhere else? One of the most Democratic towns in America, naturally.

A new poll of recent college grads from Axios has some interesting results. Seattle is the most-desired destination city for young people looking to get started somewhere new. That's no surprise, as it's a tech hub in a tech-oriented economy. It's when the results are broken down by party affiliation that things become intriguing: New York is the top option for Democrats — and Austin, Texas, is the favored target of Republicans.

Travis County — Austin is the county seat — went 72 percent for Joe Biden in 2020. It's a famously liberal town, birthplace of the "Keep Austin Weird" slogan that other similarly hippie-dippie enclaves have stolen. 

And Austin isn't the only Dem-leaning town on the list. Chicago is also a top destination for young GOP grads. So is Nashville — like Austin, a very blue city in a big red state.

So what's going on here?

It's tempting to think that for all their party's culture war talk, what many young smart Republicans really want is to live in places that liberals have made: cool cities with brewpubs, art museums, and gay people walking hand-in-hand down the street. And maybe there's something to that. 

But the real answer is probably more mundane. Big cities tend to be liberal. But those cities are also where most of the jobs are, especially for college grads. Austin is certainly a boomtown. And for young Republicans, the tension between their personal ideology and the politics of their chosen home might not be that great in a place like Austin or Nashville — they can rely on the Republican legislatures of those states to keep local politicians from getting out of hand. 

Still, Axios' findings seem to fly in the face of other trends. Americans are increasingly sorting themselves, geographically, by political preference — Democrats with Democrats, Republicans with Republicans. But it is also the case that one of the biggest divides in American life right now is the education gap: College grads tend to vote liberal, while those with less education tend to vote Republican. 

So you have to wonder what's going to happen to all those newly minted Republican college grads who are choosing to surround themselves with a lot of college-educated liberals in places like Austin. Can they maintain their ideological loyalties? Or will they gradually slip — to one degree or another — to the other side? It's a conservative truism that "politics is downstream of culture." Maybe all these young GOPers flocking to Austin will change the culture. Maybe they'll be changed.