Massachusetts Legislature: Deep Blue, Pale Red

Want to know how liberal our Democratic legislature really is in comparison with Democratic legislators in other states? Or whether our tiny band of Republicans has fought the ideologically pure fight for the past twenty years? Political scientist Seth Masket of MischiefsofFaction and the University of Denver has the answer for you.

Professor Masket uses the Individual State Legislator Shor-McCarthy Ideology Data set built by political scientists Boris Shor and Nolan McCarty to show levels of moderation or extremism in state parties in all fifty states. Masket calls his piece Where the Republicans are Really Red, and the Democrats are Really Blue. So let’s take a look at the maps he included showing partisan levels of extremism, based on the median Democratic or Republican legislators votes over the past two decades. The bluer the state, the more ideologically liberal; the redder the state, the more conservative.

states by Dem strength

And the red states:

states by GOP strength

Your eyes are immediately drawn to our beloved Bay State of course and we see that while the Democrats have been among the most liberal legislatures of their party in the country, the Republicans have been far more moderate. Take a look at Professor Masket’s blog post and you will see that the Massachusetts pattern is quite common. States with one party that is pretty extreme will usually see the other party be fairly moderate. The exception is California, where both the Democratic Party is very very blue, and the Republican Party is very very red.

About Maurice T. Cunningham

Maurice T. Cunningham is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. He teaches courses in American government including Massachusetts Politics, The American Presidency, Catholics in Political Life, The Political Thought of Abraham Lincoln, American Political Thought, and Public Policy. His book Maximization, Whatever the Cost: Race, Redistricting and the Department of Justice examines the role of the DOJ in requiring states to maximize minority voting districts in the Nineties. He has published articles dealing with the role of the Catholic Church in Massachusetts politics and on party politics in the state. His research interests focus upon the changing political culture of Massachusetts.
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