Democrats and Republicansthe Long View

When he took office in January, Gov. Paul Cellucci promised to make up for what some consider the single biggest failing of the Weld-Cellucci administration. He vowed to rebuild the Massachusetts Republican Party, which has languished under years of executive neglect.

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A look back at the last half-century of voter registration records shows just how far the Republicans have fallen in Massachusetts–and how much ground there is to make up. In 1948, Republicans and Democrats claimed roughly the same share of the state’s registered voters–25 percent each. In fact, there were only 3,919 more registered Democrats than Republicans that year. Today registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 902,216. That gives the Massachusetts Democratic Party a 37 percent to 13 percent advantage over the state GOP.

As the accompanying graph shows, Republicans have been unable to gain more than 13 to 15 percent of the state’s registered voters since the late 1970s. The party reached its peak power (percentage-wise) 45 years ago. In 1954, nearly 30 percent of registered voters were Republicans.

This state had only a few thousand more Democrats than Republicans 50 years ago.
But Democrats shouldn’t be too quick to gloat. Their numbers have been shrinking too, though not as dramatically. The percentage of registered Democrats in Massachusetts peaked in 1984 at 49 percent. Fewer people (percentage-wise) have been registering as Democrats ever since. And as their ranks have dropped, those registering under no particular party – often called “independents” but officially designated “unenrolled”–have grown. Today 49 percent of registered voters are unenrolled–the largest voting bloc in the state.