While Donald Trump has spent much of his presidency focused on the number of people who want to get into the U.S., since he took office, record numbers of Americans have wanted to get out according to a recent Gallup poll.
Though relatively average by global standards, the 16% of Americans overall who said in 2017 and again in 2018 that they would like to permanently move to another country – if they could – is higher than the average levels during either the George W. Bush (11%) or Barack Obama administration (10%).
While Gallup’s World Poll does not ask people about their political leanings, most of the recent surge in Americans’ desire to migrate has come among groups that typically lean Democratic and that have disapproved of Trump’s job performance so far in his presidency: women, young Americans and people in lower-income groups.
During the first two years of the Trump administration, a record-high one in five U.S. women (20%) said they would like to move to another country permanently if they could. This is twice the average for women during the Obama (10%) or Bush years (11%) and almost twice the level among men (13%) under Trump. Before the Trump years, there was no difference between men’s and women’s desires to move.
The 30% of Americans younger than 30 who would like to move also represents a new high – and it is also the group in which the gender gap is the largest. Forty percent of women younger than 30 said they would like to move, compared with 20% of men in this age group. These gender gaps narrow with age and eventually disappear after age 50.
Desire to migrate among the poorest 20% of Americans during Trump’s first two years is also at record levels. It is more than twice as high as the average during Obama’s two terms. So far under Trump, three in 10 Americans (30%) in the poorest 20% say they would like to migrate if they could, compared with an average of 13% under Obama.
But more than anything else, Trump himself may be the primary motivator. Regression analysis shows that regardless of differences by gender, age or income — if Americans disapprove of the job Trump is doing as president, they are more likely to want to leave the U.S. Overall, 22% of Americans who disapproved of Trump’s job performance during his first two years said they would like to move, compared with 7% who approved.
Before and after Trump’s election, many Americans — particularly Democrats — threatened to move to Canada (as Republicans did after Obama was elected). Canada always has been one of the top desired destinations for Americans, but that desire has only increased since Trump’s election. In 2018, more than one in four Americans (26%) who would like to move named Canada as the place they would like to go, up from 12% in 2016.
It’s important to note that people’s desire to migrate is typically much higher than their intention to do so — as such, it is unlikely that Americans will be flocking to the Canadian border. In fact, since Trump’s election, Canadian statistics show only a modest uptick in the number of Americans who have moved to Canada.
After years of remaining flat, the number of Americans – particularly young women – who desire to leave the U.S. permanently is on the rise. This increase is concerning, but none of this suggests that the U.S. is going to suddenly see a mass migration in which it could lose as many as 40% of its young women.
However, the “Trump effect” on Americans’ desire to migrate is a new manifestation of the increasing political polarization in the U.S. Before Trump took office, Americans’ approval or disapproval of the president was not a push factor in their desire to migrate.