Blog Verdant Labs

The politics of names

It turns out that Democrats prefer certain first names, and Republicans prefer others. We encountered this phenomenon while building the name metrics for the Baby Name Genius app.

Of male names that are at least fairly common, the most Democratic are Jonah and Malik, and the most Republican are Delbert and Duane.

For females, the most Democratic are Natasha and Maya, and the most Republican are Bailey and Brittney.

When you break out the male and female names, you can clearly see the political gender divide. Here are just the male names:

And here are the female names:

So, where does this phenomenon come from? Are our views significantly influenced by our names? That doesn't seem all that likely. More likely, Democrat parents prefer certain names (e.g., Noah), Republican parents prefer others (e.g., Trent), and their children inherit some of their politics.

That said, parents don't necessarily have the last word. Take the incoming Senate Majority Leader, for example. Addison Mitchell "Mitch" McConnell, Jr. is a Republican, but Mitchell is most often a Democratic name, and Addison is only slightly to the right. What about Mitch, the name he goes by, though? Solidly Republican.

Something else that's kind of interesting here is that the male name distribution tends to be shaped like a fish, with the Democrat side having a long tail that consists of names that are way more Democratic than Republican. If parents tend to pass down their political affiliations, maybe Republicans tend to be more conservative with male name choices (i.e., choices that have broader appeal). The female distribution is more symmetrical, so perhaps there's an equal desire for distinctive girl names by both parties.

The political affiliations are pulled from Federal Election Commission data, and the images were generated via D3.js (thanks to the visualization foundations laid by mbostock).

Here are the images in a sharper format (png rather than jpeg). Note that they don't show up properly on some mobile devices due to their width.