Presidential candidates over the last decade, including the ones running this year, have seemingly shifted from being known on a last-name basis to a first-name basis. Examples include Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Jeb Bush.

Is there a reason that they'd do this as opposed to using the family last name like Obama, Lincoln, Kennedy, etc.?

  • 3
    Disambiguation from previous presidents? :)
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 21:22
  • 11
    This isn't really political. Maybe social. Likely more about marketing. As for Jeb and Hilary, as Andrew points out, that's to separate them from their family. Obama seems to be referred to equally by both last and first names (and middle name for those fans of right wing rhetoric). Kennedy was referred to by initials just as much as his last name (JFK). Sander's campaign has been playing off of the Bern/Burn pun. I think it really comes down to each individual case having different preferences and reasons for said preferences.
    – user1530
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 22:05
  • 3
    Lots of them have been known their first names, initials, or nicknames at some point. Honest Abe, Ike, Tricky Dick, Slick Willy, FDR, etc. It's a humanizing touch on otherwise "inaccessible" figures.
    – Geobits
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 15:15
  • 1
    To add to @blip's answer, in addition to being refered to as JFK, Kennedy went by "Jack," which is why Senator Lloyd Bentsen used the line "Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy" durring a vice president debate (speaking to then Senator Dan Quayle)
    – Jance
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 19:13

1 Answer 1


Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush share their last names with past presidents, so the media has referred to them by their first names more than their last names for a while now. This is not uncommon or unusual.

Bernie Sanders' campaign slogan is "Feel the 'Bern". And for us, Bernie is more distinctive than Sanders anyway. That's all I got for that.

I don't think anyone outside of your examples goes by their first names generally. I would certainly not consider it a trend, not beyond the current trend of a few family dynasties (e.g. Bushes and Clintons) dominating politics in the past few decades.

  • 2
    They don't call Trump "Donald". So I think this is correct. +1 Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 15:50
  • Yeah, it's to counter the criticism of "dynastic" politics.
    – sfxedit
    Commented May 30, 2023 at 22:46

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