Election 2015

Election 2015: What's in a voter's name?

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As political parties try to target supporters in the election, should they be paying more attention to the first names of voters?

This intriguing political strategy is suggested by some new opinion research. The BBC Radio 4 programme Campaign Sidebar asked the polling company YouGov to explore how first names tie in to political attitudes.

YouGov analysed the voting intentions of individuals with the 130 most common first names among the 46,000 people it's polled in the past two months. And some results are fascinating.

Conservative Charlottes

The data suggests that people called Nigel are roughly twice as likely to vote for UKIP as the general population. 31% of Nigels back UKIP, compared to 16% in the public overall.

This might please party leader Nigel Farage, but there are probably demographic reasons for this, according to Joe Twyman of YouGov. He says: "What we are picking up is the fact that Nigel tends to be a name for older men. You don't hear people nowadays saying 'come round and see my lovely baby Nigel'.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Does your name affect how your cast your vote?

"And it's those people who tend to vote UKIP."

The views of those with the first names of the other main party leaders do not differ so much from the national average.

However YouGov also examined more generally which common first names are most or least likely to be associated with support for a particular party. And this is what it found.

Con Lab LibDem UKIP
Most Likely 1 Charlotte Michelle Tim Jill
2 Fiona June Kathryn Nigel
3 Pauline Andy Samantha Terry
Con Lab LibDem UKIP
3 Sharon Nigel Lynne Tom
2 Samantha Nick Joan Rachel
Least Likely 1 Clare Jonathan June Alex

The most Conservative name is Charlotte, the most Labour one is Michelle, while the most Lib Dem name is Tim, and the most UKIP one is Jill.

And the least Tory name is Clare, the least Labour one is Jonathan, the least Lib Dem one is June, and the least UKIP one is Alex.

Ann or Anne

There are also some surprising consequences of different spellings. It appears that adding an 'e' to the end of a girl's name can sometimes transform it into a much more Conservative name.

Anns are the 27th most likely name to vote Tory; but Annes are the fourth.

Similarly Carols are the 102nd most likely to back the Conservatives, while Caroles are the 14th.

And different variants can matter too. Tonys are the 20th most Tory name, while Anthonys are only the 71st.

As a caveat it should be noted that the sample sizes are considerably smaller than for a standard voting intention poll and so the margin of error is greater.

But these results raise interesting questions about the role of "nominative determinism" in influencing human behaviour, including political preferences.

Martin Rosenbaum is the editor of Campaign Sidebar