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New Seattleites: We Didn't Move Here Just For Work

Courtesy of Quinn Thomas
A new survey compares the views of newcomers to those of longtime King County residents

King County’s population is growing by about 100 people a day, and these new residents overwhelmingly come from out of state.

But despite Seattle region's tech-industry boom, many of them are coming for reasons other than work, according to a new survey aimed at painting a clearer picture of new Seattleites. 

They often reported being drawn by the area's natural environment and liberal politics and said they worried about work later. Many also cite relatives they have in the region as a reason for moving. 

Quinn Thomas, a Northwest-based communications firm, conducted the survey along with the polling firm DHM Research and the University of Washington Continuum College. 

They surveyed 400 "new residents" who moved to King County within the past five years and 400 "long-term residents" who have lived in the county 15 years or more.

The pollsters also conducted 2-hour focus group sessions with smaller samples of newcomers and long-term residents.

Authors of the report concluded that newcomers mainly relocate to the Seattle area for lifestyle, culture, or family, though many said they were confident they'd be able to find work due to the area's booming economy. 

"Over 40 percent identified something related to the environment, climate, or natural beauty as the quality of our region they value the most. In fact, it is often what attracted them, not a job," the report says. "When we asked our focus group of new residents why they moved to Seattle, nearly all of them mentioned the environment. Less than half cited a job."

Zach Knowling, a vice president at Quinn Thomas, said the results show that long-term residents and newcomers are more culturally similar than they might think.

"New Seattle residents are drawn here for a lot of the same reasons that long-term residents stay here," he said. "They want to be a part of the Seattle area. They love the mountains, water. They love the culture here and the politics." 

Despite that love, nearly half of the new residents said they didn't think they'd still be living in the Seattle area five years from now. 

That's likely in part because newcomers skew much younger than long-term residents  and feel they may move for a new job or to start a family. 

"They haven't been here long enough to really set down those roots," Knowling said. "It still remains to be seen whether these new residents will move on or if it's just something that they're keeping in the back of their mind for now." 

And while newcomers expressed worries over traffic and housing costs, they have a rosier view of the region's growth than long-term residents. 

Nearly three-fourths of new residents agreed that "growth is good because it creates economic opportunities for everyone in the area."

Just over half of long-term residents thought the same. 

Will James is a former KNKX reporter and was part of the special projects team, reporting and producing podcasts such as Outsiders and The Walk Home.