Saturday, December 26, 2015

Political affiliation: Is it correlated to a person's name?

Are names randomly distributed through the political spectrum, or do they cluster around different political parties?

The Washington Post tried to answer that question by looking at current voter-registration data in Washington, D.C.  Its conclusion, to be published in its Crunched column in tomorrow's Washington Post Magazine, is that "certain names are more popular among members of different political parties."

What the Post story doesn't do is consider the obvious underlying question.  In almost all cases, names are given, not chosen.  So while the data show that (at least in Washington, D.C.) a Tyler is more likely to be a Republican, it's not clear why being given that name as a newborn would result decades later in him choosing to identify with the GOP.

It would be fun to take all 40 names used in this study, alpha-sort them, then show them to our students.  Give them the political party names, then ask them to sort the names by party.  Then you could lead a class discussion where students defend their groupings.  This could lead to a discussion of the larger issue of political affiliation (what it means, how it is formed, what influence it has on voting patterns).

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