No-party animals

Source: Elections Division, Massachusetts Secretary of State’s Office (www.sec.state.ma.us)

As of February, 49.8 percent of Massachusetts voters were unenrolled in any party—a slight drop from the February 2000 high point of 50.3 for the independence movement (or non-movement), which has come back from a low of 35.3 percent in 1968. Going into this election year, the Democratic Party claims 36.1 percent of the Massachusetts electorate, its lowest share since 1962. The Republican Party, which has been in the low teens since Ronald Reagan became president in 1981, accounts for 13.1 percent. The remaining half of Massachusetts voters considers themselves playing the political field.

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The town of Monroe has the highest share of independents, with 81 percent—56 voters out of 69. Among towns with at least 1,000 voters, Westhampton is the most independent, with 72 percent unenrolled. More significant is the unenrolled bloc in the far suburbs of Boston. This bloc was essential to the election of three Republican governors since 1990.

In 292 of the state’s 351 cities and towns, Independents make up at least half of the electorate; Framingham is the biggest. Attleboro is the largest where 60 percent of voters or more are unenrolled. The state’s major cities have more party loyalty, with only 38 percent unenrolled in Boston, 32 percent in Fall River. But in 204 Bay State communities, the Republicans have at least half as many loyalists as the Democrats do (see smaller map). These appear to be the places where the GOP might find the candidates and the voters to increase their numbers in the state Legislature.