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Is Rich a Republican Name? Is Herb Democratic?

What’s in a name?  Political preference, political determinism?  No, that’s hogwash.  But nonetheless, check out what crops up in word clouds of the first names of this year’s candidates running for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, as compared to the general population.

The name Herb is more popular among Democrats running for office this year than the name is in the general population, while among Republicans, there are more Treys, Chaunceys, and Dicks than one might expect when looking at U.S. Census data.

Is Rich a Republican Name

Created using IBM’s Many Eyes tool, these word clouds highlight the names of the candidates compared to the frequency of these same names in the U.S. population.  The larger the name, the more it is overrepresented.  The name Art, for example, is more popular among Democratic candidates than it is in the population at large.  And among Democrats, the name Herb is even more overrepresented than then name Art.

This data reflects generational and socioeconomic patterns — the census data considered the names of all Americans recorded in the 1990 census.  But Congressional candidates tend to be wealthier and whiter than the average U.S. citizen.

Many of the names in the word clouds are nicknames: Mac and Chuck, for example, are often short for Michael and Charles.  But nicknames — generally used by family and friends — connote friendly informality and are therefore popular among political candidates, particularly Republican candidates, as names of choice to list on ballots.

These word clouds beg other questions: Are Hayden, Hank, and Jerrold more popular among Democratic parents than Republican parents, or is it possible that Democrats named Hayden and Hank are more likely to run for office than the average American?  And why are more Democrats named Elmo and Barney?  Is Sesame Street planning to take on the Tea Party?

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