Pandemic Spurs Florida’s Rightward Tilt, Population Growth

The coronavirus pandemic has been a key reason for Florida’s staggering population growth in recent years and its transformation from a battleground state to one that tilts toward the Republican Party, The Hill reported on Monday.

“There’s one word and it’s COVID,” Nelson Diaz, a GOP lobbyist and former chair of the Miami-Dade County Republican Party, told The Hill. “It made red states redder and blue states bluer. It gave people like [Florida Gov.] Ron DeSantis a platform to stand for freedom, and it gave Democrats in Democrat states a plan to stand for mandates.”

Diaz said many of the more than 211,000 in Florida’s net migration between July 2020 and July 2021 (the most in the nation) was attracted by the state’s embrace of conservative policies.

“They are Republicans fed up with their blue laws in their blue states [such as New York, New Jersey, and California] or they’re just independent-minded people to begin with and they’re just fed up with these blue states, and they’re enjoying the freedom that Florida has to offer,” he said.

DeSantis was at the forefront of opposing pandemic-era restrictions and mandates imposed elsewhere, earning him the praise of those with the same mindset and spurring him to launch an ultra-conservative policy agenda in which he has emphasized conservative grievances and culture war issues.

DeSantis’s approval hit 56% in a Morning Consult poll in April, putting him in a strong position as he tries to get reelected this year.

Another reason cited for the rightward shift in Florida is that the state’s Hispanic population has increased significantly over the years, and Republicans have made impressive inroads among many of those voters, Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida, told The Hill.

Jewett also said that among the general population “the older senior generation – say the New Deal generation – who were pretty loyal Democrats, they’re dying off, and they’re being replaced by the Baby Boomer retirees, and many of them are moving to Florida, and they’re very Republican.”

Florida’s political trajectory has become increasing bleak for Democrats, with the number of registered Republican voters overtaking those of registered Democrats late last year, marking a sharp change since 2008, when there were 700,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans.

“When you look at what’s taken place from a numbers perspective, there’s tremendous reason for concern,” Fernand Amandi, a Miami-based pollster and consultant whose firm helped Barack Obama’s campaign win the state in 2008 and 2012, told the Hill.


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