Experts Shared How Politics Has Influenced Baby Name Trends — And It’s Revealing

Polarizing political figures can impact the popularity of their first names.

The impact of pop culture on baby names is well documented ― from the rise of “Game of Thrones” and “Yellowstone” character names to the influence of celebrities and the monikers they choose for their children. But do politicians and political news stories hold the same power?

According to baby-naming experts, it’s complicated.

“A few generations ago, parents regularly named children ― especially boys ― for their political heroes,” Abby Sandel, the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain, told HuffPost. “Cleveland surged after Grover Cleveland won the White House in 1885. Kennedy debuted in the U.S. top 1,000 for boys in the 1960s after JFK was elected.”

First names like Franklin, Woodrow, Warren, Herbert and Dwight also peaked in popularity around the years when their corresponding presidents assumed office.

“Presidential last names for girls became popular in the ’80s ― at the onset of the ‘gender-neutral wave’ ― and have continued on through today with Taylor, Madison, Reagan, Kennedy and Monroe,” added baby name consultant Taylor Humphrey.

And then, of course, there are the presidential last names that became long-standing classic first names for boys (and increasingly more girls), like Lincoln, Grant, Harrison, Ford, Carter, Jackson and Tyler.

Nameberry Editor-in-Chief Sophie Kihm compared parents’ baby-naming preferences as they related to politics a century ago with what we see today.

“In 1924, names of past presidents like Cleveland and Roosevelt were in the top 1,000, and names of the two most recent presidents, Harding and Wilson, both spiked in popularity following their elections,” she said. “But the way politics influences baby names today is less direct than it was at the beginning of the 20th century.”

For example, only 11 baby boys were named Biden in 2021, zero were named Trump in 2017, and 16 were named Obama in 2009. Still, Humphrey believes we could see more baby Obamas, Trumps and Bidens in the future.

“Presidential last names exude elegance and prestige,” she said. “Even controversial presidents now find their names honored ― Nixon, for example, cracked the top 1,000 in 2011.”

The Nixon example might well be an anomaly, however.

“In recent years, presidential surnames like Reagan, Carter, Jackson and Hayes are popular, but politics seems to be a nonfactor for most parents when choosing those names,” Sandel said. “Instead, names take a hit if they’re perceived as overtly political. The boys name Fox could be a rising star ― it’s midway between Max and Bear, and rhymes with popular Knox. But after 2016, the name fell sharply in use, likely because it’s so strongly associated with the controversial network.”

The latest Social Security Administration data shows that in 2022, the names Kamala and Harris had also fallen since the current vice president took on her role. Sandel emphasized that it’s not necessarily because parents didn’t vote for the Joe BidenKamala Harris ticket, but because many are reluctant to give their children a name that feels too political.

“A tiny percentage of parents are still willing to declare their party affiliations with their children’s birth certificates ― but they’re the outliers,” she said.

Red vs. Blue Names

Although today’s parents don’t typically name their children after political figures, there are still differences between liberal and conservative names.

“Liberals are more likely to give their children traditional, formal names, while conservatives are apt to choose names with creative spellings or nickname names for their babies,” Kihm noted. “But that’s correlation rather than causation — liberal parents are not choosing classic names because that will tag them as liberals.”

Instead, these choices can be explained by other differences between the two groups, Kihm said. For instance, liberal parents are more likely to have children at an older age, and older parents gravitate toward more traditional names.

“We also know that the parents in Cheyenne, Wyoming, name a little differently than parents in, say, Boston, Massachusetts,” Sandel said, noting that Wyoming parents are more likely to choose names like Waylon, Brooks, Beau, Brooklyn, Addisyn or Emersyn, while their Massachusetts counterparts might be more inclined to pick a top 100 go-to like Luca, Kai, Iris and Quinn.

“Part of that might be politics, but it’s a part of a broader set of cultural ideas about what makes a good name,” she added. “Of course, sometimes our ideas about what makes a good name veer back into politics. Obviously gun-related names like Remington and Wesson might reflect parents’ political beliefs ― or maybe they’re just the trending names parents in their social circle are all considering. That seems less likely in blue state America.”

Other gun-related names that have shown up on birth certificates in recent years include Shooter, Trigger, Beretta, Ruger, Benelli, Kimber and Caliber.

Sherri Suzanne, a baby name consultant who founded the company My Name for Life, noted that this kind of inspiration can apply to both ends of the political spectrum.

“Some parents are driven by issues and hope for a name that reflects their priorities, like protecting the environment or wildlife,” she said, pointing to names like River and Bear.

Reactions to major geopolitical events can also affect parents’ choices.

“I had a client who was from a decorated military family who nixed the name Stellan from her list because she felt it sounded a little too much like Stalin!” Humphrey said.

After Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022, the Social Security Administration’s baby-naming data showed a decline in Russian-sounding names. Though it might’ve been unrelated to the war, Tatiana had the biggest decline of any girl name in 2022. Nikolai, Dimitri, Mikhail and Vladimir also dropped down the list.

“This tends to happen with major wars,” Kihm said. “Parents turned away from German baby names following World War I. Then-popular names like Bertha, Hilda and Hubert fell dramatically during wartime and never recovered.”

Polarizing political figures can impact the popularity of their first names.

Political Headlines And Names

“Political personalities are media personalities, and names in the news can quickly become part of naming culture in our fast-paced, information-saturated society,” Suzanne noted. “By that, I mean politics can be a source of names like any popular culture source ― see Beto, Mitt, Merrick.”

Although political headlines might bring less common names into broader cultural awareness, these picks are unlikely to surge up the charts if they’re associated with scandal or vitriol.

“We have personal and public perceptions of a name,” said Jennifer Moss, the founder of “Personal is your experience in your life with names, like exes, class bullies, family members. The same goes with public perception of names ― when many people will associate a name with the same person, like Hillary, Donald or Oprah.”

Prior to the Monica Lewinsky scandal of the ’90s, the name Monica was on an upward trajectory thanks to the TV show “Friends.” But that quickly changed.

“From 1998 to 1999 it dropped almost 50 points, then continued to decline after that,” Moss said. “But this will only happen if the name is highly identified with one person. For example, people are not going to stop using the name George because of [ousted Rep. George] Santos.”

In the case of Donald Trump, the former president used to refer to himself as “The Donald” ― as if to say he is the ultimate or No. 1 Donald. It’s therefore reasonable to suggest that he might’ve influenced the popularity of his first name.

“Overall, Donald has been declining consistently, although there have been a few years since the election where the name has stayed stable or even increased slightly,” Kihm noted. “Donald ranked at No. 489 in both 2016 and No. 486 in 2017, suggesting Trump’s election may have convinced a handful of parents [to] use the name. In 2021, Donald rose to No. 592 from No. 610 the year before. That may appear to be a sizable jump, but it was only a difference of 18 babies.”

Still, Kihm believes the rise between 2020 and 2021 suggests a political motivation among parents choosing the name Donald.

“In 2021, there was a lot of attention on Trump,” she explained. “He left office, the insurrection occurred, and he created a lot of discourse around election fraud. Some conservative parents likely named their sons Donald in support of Trump.”

The next year, however, the name dropped down 18 places, and it seems unlikely that it will join the trend of vintage names having a 21st-century revival.

“It’s an old man’s name today,” Sandel said. “Then again, lots of 1930s names feel fresh and new a century later. It’s likely that politics gives some parents cause to hesitate. In 2022, just 402 boys were named Donald, the smallest number in a century. Even if Donald is your beloved grandpa’s name, I suspect parents might not want to compare their child to the former president ― or be asked if their child was named in his honor.”

Throughout U.S. history, parents seem to have ditched political name options once they developed a negative association.

“Wendell was one of the fastest-falling boy names of 1941, following Wendell Willkie’s failed run for president,” Kihm said. “Garfield was one of the fastest-falling baby names of 1882, following the President Garfield’s assassination. Franklin, Delano and Roosevelt were among the fastest-falling names of 1946, following FDR’s death.”

But perhaps the strongest naming influence in politics comes from the family members and other people in a public figure’s orbit.

“As with Hollywood celebrities, it is often politicians’ children that influence naming more so than politicians themselves,” Suzanne said. “I think statistics will show a bit of an uptick in the popularity of presidential children’s and grandchildren’s names, particularly during campaigns or when they first take office.”

She pointed to Caroline Kennedy, Lynda Johnson, Tricia Nixon, Jenna Bush and Chelsea Clinton, as well as Malia and Sasha Obama.

“It feels like a modern phenomenon, but more than a century ago, the name of Theodore Roosevelt’s son Quentin briefly soared up the charts when he died a war hero during WWI,” Suzanne added.

Humphrey noted that some of the names of Trump’s grandchildren ― Arabella, Theodore and Kai ― have risen in popularity since they were born. The name Ivanka also rose in popularity in 2016 before cratering.

Looking ahead to the future, however, Humphrey believes that political figures will influence baby naming in ways that we have yet to see.

“As outrageous as it may sound, I don’t think it’s completely out of the realm of possibility to see name variations like Trumper, Trumpet or Trumpley get tossed around by the next generation or two,” she said.

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