Fewer Mainers were born in Maine. What does that mean politically?

Maine is changing, with a population that has an increasing portion of people in the state who moved to Maine.

A fabulous set of interactive graphics from the New York Times shows changes in the backgrounds of each states’ residents.

Maine’s graph shows that, while native Mainers were a stable and high portion (81-78%) of the state between 1900 and 1970, they have fallen as a share of the population.

Now 66% of the state was born in Maine.

Where We Came From, State by State, by Gregor Aisch, Robert Gebeloff and Kevin Quealy, August 14, 2014, New York Times

Where We Came From, State by State, by Gregor Aisch, Robert Gebeloff and Kevin Quealy, August 14, 2014, New York Times

Interestingly, while a higher percentage of Mainers are now From Away, increasingly those individuals have come from within the United States.

In 2012, few Maine people come from out of the country, while the rate in 1900 was more than triple (13% then versus 4% in 2012).

Migrants to Maine are mostly from other Northeast and New England states.

As the New York Times notes, these individuals have different educational profiles than native Mainers.

About 40 percent of adults now living in Maine but born elsewhere have a college degree, about twice the rate of state natives.

What, if anything, does this trend mean politically?

It depends — in large part on whether Maine’s trend follows several other New England states, Vermont and New Hampshire.

Both of those states have seen their politics change quite a lot as their populations have changed.

In recent decades, Vermont and New Hampshire have moved to the left at the same time their populations included more people from out of state.

Vermont has gone from 72% natives (in 1900) to a bare majority (52%) in 2012.

NY Times, "Where we came from, state by state"

NY Times, “Where we came from, state by state”

The state has a Democratic governor, two U.S. senators who caucus with the Democrats, and its one member of the U.S. House is a Democrat.

Vermont’s largest group of non-natives, 9% of the population, moved from New York.

In 1900, New Hampshire had a lower percentage of natives than either Vermont or Maine. And it’s gone from 60% natives then to having a minority of residents (42%) from New Hampshire in 2012.

New York Times, "Where we came from, state by state"

New York Times, “Where we came from, state by state”

While in the past many of those migrants left Massachusetts to avoid the Bay State’s more liberal policies, those moving in now seem to be shifting New Hampshire to the left.

New Hampshire is increasingly a Democratic state on the presidential level. Its last vote for a Republican presidential candidate was in 2000.

New Hampshire adopted Medicaid expansion while Maine has not. And New Hampshire adopted marriage equality before Maine.

Now, those policy differences are not necessarily reflective of differing views in the population. Without Gov. LePage, Medicaid expansion would have passed. And the Maine Legislature did pass marriage equality before New Hampshire’s Legislature, but Maine’s law was overturned by a 2009 referendum before being put in place by a 2012 vote of the people.

Still, if Maine should see its population pattern follow Vermont and New Hampshire, with more people moving in from the Northeast, it’s very likely the state will become more Democratic.

By the way, there’s little evidence that candidates from out of state will face much difficulty.

While we can all point to successful and unsuccessful candidates From Away, a study found little impact of state origin on candidate success in Maine.

That 2005 paper, “Away Game: The Political Implications of ‘Being From Away’ in Maine Politics,” by James Melcher of UMaine-Farmington, also has an interesting discussion of population and political changes in Vermont, among other places.

Given the aging of the state’s residents, many politicians and civic leaders have said that Maine needs to increase migration to the state, particularly from young people.

While that has seen to be a necessity for Maine’s economy, it’s very likely that such migration, along with retaining and bringing back young Mainers, will have political effects.

It’s possible the impact will differ from what happened with New Hampshire and Vermont. Maybe Maine will be the recipient of more conservative migrants.

And, ideology aside, maybe one shift could be in the state’s political culture, away from its independent-minded and civil tendencies.

But there’s no doubt that a different mix of Maine residents should create change in our politics.

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Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.