"What's life like in Minnesota?" On the social media site Reddit, the questions have been flooding in lately from people pondering a move. "Is it as good as it seems?"
On Twitter, former President Obama posted a thread this spring — retweeted nearly 10,000 times — praising the state's liberal legislation. More recently, Minnesota topped Texas in CNBC's ranking of states for business. The New York Times recently hailed Duluth as a climate haven.
In some circles, at least, Minnesota is having a moment.
That's a happy sight for state marketers who are launching an $11 million division to attract new residents and businesses — a tall order after the civil unrest the state has seen in recent years.
"Between the livability and economic-based rankings ... we are starting to see some excited interest in our state," said Lauren Bennett McGinty, director of Explore Minnesota, the state tourism department which is launching its first "talent attraction" division called Explore Minnesota for Business.
Local Reddit forums are so overrun with inquiries from out-of-staters who might want to move that moderators have condensed posts into monthly threads where friendly Minnesotans counsel their potential new neighbors.
In the digital age, it's easier than ever to shop for a new city to call home, said Matt Lewis, vice president of strategic initiatives at Greater MSP, a regional economic development group.
"This is certainly a moment, amongst many," Lewis said, noting that Minnesota has had high rankings in the past. "Maybe this is the moment where we're taking that to the next step and getting people to take a look."
Politics drives more lifestyle decisions
Americans increasingly have sorted themselves into ZIP codes based on political beliefs as the country became more polarized in the past 20 years, Lewis said. Housing affordability matters to everyone, he said, but policies also play a role in where some people choose to live, ranging from the way transgender people are treated to policies that help caretakers of aging parents.
Many on social media cite DFL-controlled legislation as the impetus for their interest in the state, including protection for women seeking abortions as well as free school lunches and child tax credits.
On the other hand, op-eds went viral online citing high taxes and crime as reasons for Republicans to leave and head to states such as Texas or Florida.
"Walz's culture-war rhetoric might arouse his base in the Twin Cities, but it isn't going to reverse that stampede of Minnesotans to Florida," John Phelan, economist at conservative think tank the Center for the American Experiment wrote in an different op-ed earlier this year.
Overall, more people have been leaving the state than moving here in recent years, U.S. Census data shows. It's too early to tell whether that will change anytime soon.
Most of the people who do move to Minnesota are part of the most mobile demographic: ages 19 to 24, said senior state demographer Megan Dayton. That same group is the largest leaving Minnesota too, likely coming in or out of the state for school or job opportunities.
Online spaces often are dominated by younger people who tend to be more progressive voters, she said, pointing to why there might be social media buzz lately. "We have a lot of things that passed through our Legislature this time around that are politically more progressive than our neighboring states," Dayton said.
As the state's population ages, some people are seeking warmer states that have different tax structures, Dayton said. That demographic tends to have the most wealth, she added.
Moving to Minnesota
Texan Jodi Miller and her husband posted in a Minnesota Facebook group in search of things to see while on their home scouting trip planned for this fall. They were hoping for just a few ideas, but instead got nearly 1,000 replies. Miller is interested in the state's lakes, low elevation and health care systems, but seeing recent headlines and comments about the state's progressive policies didn't hurt, she said.
"I was kind of like, 'See this? See I told you Minnesota was the place to go,' " she said she told her husband.
Much like dating has transformed with the internet, so has finding a new city. With more options in the age of remote work, more people are shopping around, Lewis said.
"It may or may not be true that people are actually going on more dates, right? But they are looking at more options," Lewis said.
Some people could be shopping for cities whether or not they have any actual plans to move, he said.
Aubrey Regner and her husband did. They had a long list of lifestyle priorities as they shopped for cities and prepared to leave Orlando. They looked at Atlanta and Seattle before Minnesota came on their radar. They watched YouTube videos produced by local Realtors and spent a day driving around the Twin Cities. What they found: access to healthy food, medical care and family support, she said.
"It just kind of checked all the boxes," said Regner, who moved to Minnesota in June. "We ended up really liking it and settled on moving up here, even though it was completely new and we didn't really know anybody."
As Regner gets settled and enjoys the farmer's markets and living near a Trader Joe's, as she's chronicled on her TikTok account, she's also responding to hundreds of comments from Minnesotans welcoming her and from Floridians seeking advice on getting out, she said.
Marketers in the state are watching the social media chatter closely.
After the murder of George Floyd revealed racial inequities in Minnesota, some online conversations are now changing, said Courtney Ries, senior vice president of branding and strategy at city tourism board Meet Minneapolis.
"I think that seeing some of these accolades are a great reminder that there are some great things about Minnesota for some folks that were — rightly so — very embarrassed to see this bright spotlight and have Minnesota shown in such a negative light," she said. "Minnesota is understanding better that we can both make things better and be proud of what we have."