Could baby names prove a litmus test for presidential approval? During the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency, the popularity of “Donald” as a baby name has held steady, while the popularity of “Hillary” has dropped precipitously.
According to the Social Security Administration, 594 baby boys were given the name “Donald” at the time of their birth in 2017, making the president’s name rank 488 among all baby names. This came nowhere near the most popular names: “Liam,” “Noah,'” and “William” took first, second, and third, respectively.
Importantly, however, “Donald” in 2017 ranked just as highly as it did in 2016 — it remained the 488th most popular baby name. If only “Hillary” were so lucky.
In 2015, “Hillary” ranked number 2,673. During the presidential election year of 2016, the name jumped up to number 2,452. In 2017, the name took a steep dive to rank 3,802. There will be hundreds more girls named “Emma,” “Olivia,” and “Ava” (the top three girl names) than “Hillary.”
Both names have experienced a long-term decline in popularity. From 1928 to 1938, “Donald” was the seventh most common boy name. In the year President Trump was born (1946), “Donald” was the 13th most common boy name. The decline began in the late 1950s, falling to rank 401 in 2012. If anything, President Trump may have resurrected the name.
As for the name “Hillary,” it also used to be much more popular. In 1992, the year Bill Clinton won the presidency and his wife became first lady, “Hillary” stood at rank 132. This year marked the zenith of the name’s popularity, and by 1998 it had fallen to rank 868. Ouch! In 2008, the year of Hillary Clinton’s first run for president, her name jumped to rank 722 (it had languished at rank 961 the year before).
More comprehensive data for the name “Hillary” is less available after 2008, when the name dropped below rank 1,000.
Bloomberg’s Stephen Mihm reported on the state-level data, which reveals just what Americans might expect: “Donald” is on the upswing in red states. In red Alabama, “Donald” ranked at number 401 in 2016, but in 2017 it shot up to number 342. In Louisiana, the president’s name took rank 376 in 2016, but jumped to rank 285 last year.
“Donald” lost ground in blue states, where Trump is persona non grata. In California, the president’s name was rank 560 in 2016 and fell to rank 640 last year. In Maryland, “Donald” shot down from rank 987 to rank 1,099.
Baby names seem an odd metric for presidential popularity, but Mihm argued that “this measure is rooted in history.” Parents have indeed named their children after popular presidents, while avoiding those names associated with mediocre or malicious leaders. The male name “Herbert,” for example, rose in popularity after Herbert Hoover was elected president, but then dropped precipitously at the beginning of the Great Depression.
While it could be argued that Trump’s name dropped since he started being referred to as “The Donald” — first press reference in Spy magazine in 1989 when “Donald” was rank 82 — the decline of “Hillary” proved much more precipitous and much more tied to her time as first lady.