Does Your Name Reveal Your Political Affiliation?

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Clarity Campaigns recently released a tool that predicts your partisanship based on your first name. Their score is derived by combining data from a national voter file, consumer warehouses, and proprietary survey work and averaging the predicted partisanship probability (say that ten times fast) for people who share your name. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out.

Of course, Utah is notably distinct on both of these measures; we are arguably the most Republican state in the country and we have a well-deserved reputation for creative baby names. So I wondered what interesting patterns we could find in the local scene.

My approach here is admittedly less sophisticated than Clarity’s. Instead of using statistical models to predict partisan identity, I’m tabulating based on declared party affiliation on the Utah voter file. These are two different measures. Most of the Utah voters who are formally unaffiliated have a party preference despite avoiding being added to the party rolls. Keep that in mind.

Contextual Stats

Here are some statewide statistics to establish context:

Party Registration in Utah

Among voters who do affiliate with a party, Republicans dominate statewide. For every declared Democrat, there are more than four Republicans. And only a tiny sliver of the registered voters affiliate with a third party. But the bloc of voters that remains undeclared is nearly as large as the Republican register.

Name Communality Percentiles

There are a total of 58,018 distinct first names on the file. The majority of voters have common first names; 60% share their first name with at least a thousand other voters in the state. But a hefty 20% of the file have a first name that fewer than 250 voters share. And 36,970 voters have a first name that is completely unique to them. If you are looking for novel ideas for naming your next child, the Utah voter file is a treasure trove of name ideas, derivations, and alternate spellings.

If you are a strong partisan parent-to-be and you are looking for ideas, you’ve come to the right place.

Top Names

By counting the number of voter registrations that share a first name by party affiliation, we can calculate a probability of registering for a party for each name. These probabilities range from 0 to 1 and suggest the likelihood that any individual with a certain name affiliates with a political party. For most of the tables below, I’ve only included names that are common to 36 voters or more (or names that are common up to the 90th percentile). This ensures we aren’t calculating probabilities based on too few observations for any sort of statistical validity.

Below shows the most common voter names across the state with probabilities of registering Republican (GOP), Democrat (DEM), Unaffiliated (UNF), Other Party (OTH) and the total count of voters sharing each name.

Most Common Voter NamesSince these are the most common names, you would expect them to mirror the statewide partisan averages, and they do for the most part. Women named Linda are the most likely to be partisan – both Republican and Democratic – and men named Christopher are the least likely to be partisan.

The Most Republican Names

Top GOP NamesThe most Republican names skew toward names more common among older cohorts (Marilyn, for example, peaked in popularity in the 1930’s). This makes sense, considering that the base of the party currently skews older (in general, the voter file skews older too). There is a fairly even split between traditionally male names and traditionally female names.

The top names are fairly predictive – every name on this list is more likely to be a Republican than any other party affiliation. This is not true of the other parties, as you will see below.

The Most Democratic Names

Top DEM NamesNotably, the names most likely to identify a registered Democrat are Hispanic. 13% of the state residents are self-described Hispanic, though only 30% of the eligible voters are registered to vote. But those who are voting strongly tend Democratic. Plus some of these names are very popular in the youngest cohorts.

The probability that any name belongs to a registered Democrat never exceeds 0.40 and none of them are more likely to be Democrats than they are to be unaffiliated voters.

The Names Most Likely to Belong to an Unaffiliated Voter

Unaffiliated Voter Names

These names are relatively predictive of non-partisan voters. Every name on this list has a much higher probability of being unaffiliated than of belonging to any of the parties.

The Names Most Likely to Belong to a Third-Party Partisan

Third-Party Names

These probabilities are weak. None of these names is more likely to belong to a third-party than they are to be unaffiliated or Republican.

Some Thoughts

For the vast majority of common names in Utah there is no partisan connotation. As you can see in these tables, the most politically-charged names also happen to be atypical. But if you find yourself on a blind date with a Sueann, Corwin, or Irma you should shy away from political banter. And if you name your baby Scotty, know that his appellation associates are generally averse to party politics – with some exceptions.

– Scotty Riding



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On February 28, 2014

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