Calling Massachusetts a Liberal State: Just a 'Political Stereotype'?

States like Mississippi, Utah, Texas and Oklahoma are constantly and uncontroversially identified as bright red conservative outposts by Times reporters, but to call Massachusetts liberal is a "political stereotype," according to the online headline to Monday's front-page story by Michael Cooper.

The print edition headline was mild: "Reliable, Liberal Massachusetts? Think Again." But the online headline called the idea of a liberal Massachusetts a "stereotype," as if there was some doubt it's a heavily Democratic state: "In Senate Race, Massachusetts Bucks a Political Stereotype."

A previous headline preserved at the top of the page trucked in one political stereotype the Times clearly approves of, the "angry" red-state conservative: "In Reliably Blue State of Massachusetts, Pockets Red With Anger."

Cooper at least tried to back up his assertion about Massachusetts in his analysis:

States do not get much more Democratic than Massachusetts. Democrats hold every statewide office and control both houses of the legislature with lopsided majorities. The state's entire Congressional delegation is Democratic.

But Massachusetts does not always live up to its national stereotype as a bastion of liberalism. Yes, it was the only state to vote for George McGovern for president in 1972, but it also voted twice for Ronald Reagan. Democratic enrollment has fallen from 48 percent of the electorate in 1984 to 37 percent last year. And thanks largely to votes from independent voters in the suburbs, Massachusetts was led by Republican governors for 16 straight years, until Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, broke the streak with his 2006 landslide election. Now Mr. Patrick is dealing with slipping approval ratings as he seeks re-election.