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Evan Horowitz

Sometimes, Massachusetts looks like a pretty red state

If Martha Coakley ran for governor of western Massachusetts, she’d have won in a landslide. For his part, Charlie Baker would have had a much easier path to victory were he campaigning to be governor of central Massachusetts or the South Shore.

Massachusetts has a reputation as a very blue state, but geographically it breaks down into some very distinct regions, with differing political preferences and voting patterns.

In this week’s election, there were just two big swatches of blue: one in the far west and another pushing northwest from Boston. Beyond that, Massachusetts looked like a pretty deep red.

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Was it different in 2010?

Although the 2010 gubernatorial election was won by a Democrat, Deval Patrick, the election map actually looked quite similar to this week’s. Patrick captured a slightly broader area around cities like Boston and New Bedford, but otherwise much of the state was still painted red.


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What about 2012?

Presidential elections are a totally different animal, partly because they attract more voters and partly because Republican candidates are drawn further right by their need to win over conservatives across the south and west of the United States.

During his 2012 reelection campaign, President Obama won an overwhelming majority of Massachusetts cities and towns. He carried such a large radius around Boston that it covered up most of central Massachusetts, and he made a similarly strong showing on and near the Cape.

Yet, even with all that extra blue territory, the basic regional pattern still held. Towns in central and southeastern Massachusetts remained less Democrat-friendly than those in Western Massachusetts and those just northwest of Boston (witness the lighter blues).

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Was it always this way?

Figuring out how and when this political pattern took shape is no simple feat. Among other things, it’s likely related to changes in the economies of different areas. But it also touches on questions about why adjacent towns should have such different leanings. Why is Newton so much more liberal than Weston? Why do rural towns in the center of the state vote so differently than those to the West?


I’ll be looking at these questions more deeply in a future piece, but for now, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts (particularly if you find yourself living on one of those political boundaries.)

Evan Horowitz digs through data to find information that illuminates the policy issues facing Massachusetts and the United States. He can be reached at evan.horowitz@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeHorowitz