Poll Results for “What’s in a Name?”

Names are used as identification and often provide the world with information about our identity, marrital status, country of origin, and even cultural and religious information.  Now, using only a name, the internet can provide even more information (both personal and professional) about our identity. So, it’s no surprise that everyone feels strongly when making the decision to keep, ditch, or morph their surnames after marriage.  In my previous post,“What’s in a Name?”, I asked you all to take a survey answering personal questions about what influenced your decision about keeping or changing your surname. This is a follow-up post to report on the results of that survey. There were over 100 visitors to the post, and of those visitors, I received a total of 46 responses to my poll (which is not too shabby!).  The majority of the responses were from Canadian women born between 1980-1989.  The Women that took this survey overwhelmingly chose to keep or morph their names (70%) based primarily on personal and professional reasons.  Overall, participants were just as intrigued about the topic of names, and contributed many eye opening comments that are included in this post.

So why did YOU choose to keep, ditch, or morph your surname?  Here’s the results broken down by question:

1) What is your gender?

Of the 46 responders, 42 were female and 4 were male.  (So if you are just reading this now, and especially if you are male, it not too late to take the survey!)  The 4 men that responded to my survey had very open minded opinions but if your interested in another (larger) survey visit, “How Men REALLY Feel When You keep Your Last Name” published in Women’sHealth (August 2013).

Your comments:

“I’ve considered hyphenating my name, but generally speaking women I have dated would prefer we each keep our own names or that she would change hers.” (Male, USA, born 1987)

“Who knows what will happen if/when I get married! If my partner would have particularly strong feelings about what to do with our names, I would probably default to their position, because I don’t.” (Male, USA, born 1987)

2) What year were you born? The results were skewed towards responders born in the 1980’s.  (This bias is most definitely a result of a large number of my friends/peers reading my blog and taking the poll.)  None-the-less, there was a strong response from women born in the 80’s and 90’s to keep their surname (or hyphenate).  Women born in the 70’s were torn (about 50/50) and majority of all women born before the 1970 changed their name.

Percent (%) of responders born within a certain decade.
Figure 1, Percent (%) of responders born within a certain decade: blue= 1950-1959 (7%), red= 1960-1969 (2%), green= 1970-1979 (20%), purple= 1980-1989 (60%), and teal= 1990-1999 (11%).

Your comments:

“I was married in Germany, before there was a choice to keep your surname (1988). Looking back, if I was given the choice, I would have kept my maiden name.” (Female, Germany)

3) What is your country of origin? Responders to the poll were spread across 9 country’s, including Canada (54%), U.S.A. (32%), United Kingdom (2%), Romania (2%), Republic of Georgia (2%), India (2%), Germany (2%), Australia (2%) and Switzerland (2%).

Your comments:

“In India..an individual’s surname usually indicates his/her caste (example: Raja Patel – Patel denotes a caste). This allows people to identify people’s caste, which at times lead to discrimination.  My current surname has NO connotations to caste. It is my father’s first name. By keeping my current surname I hope to carry my fathers name around rather than a caste name!” (Female, India, 1988)

“Other reason- husband previously married, did not want to be second Mrs. x (even though 1st partner changed name back after divorce). Long standing tradition in Scotland to have mothers maiden name as middle name, we did this so my son has both names but it’s not too long (my last name is 7 letters, makes for a long hyphenated name).” (Female, Canada, 1983)

4) What is your sexual orientation?

Unfortunately, there were very few responses from the gay community (but again, it’s not too late, and if you are reading this… go take the survey!).  Majority of the responses were from heterosexual (84%) readers but a few from bisexual (11%) and homosexual (5%) as well.  ALL homosexual responders kept (or would keep) their name.  The majority of bisexual responders replied that they would keep or hyphenate their name (one mention that it depends on the aesthetics of her partners name).

Your comments:

“As a lesbian, I think it is interesting to see how the gay population is dealing with the last name thing now that marriage is legal in so many places. I have married gay friends who have hyphenated, who have kept their own names, and one couple who is considering coming up with a new last name altogether that they would both take. It’s interesting to see how the gay community deals with the last name issue, and if we consider the same things as does the straight community when deciding what to do. I think we have less pressure to take someone else’s name, but perhaps the same desire to be seen as a ‘team’.”  (Female, USA, 1973)

“Before we were married, we briefly, and half-jokingly considered changing our surnames to something non-familial–it would have been Sanchez!– but that conversation didn’t go very far, and my Mom was a bit against the idea. So six years on we have kept the names we were born with, doesn’t seem much point to change now.” (Male, Canada, 1970)

5) What is your highest level of education?

This poll was strongly biased by highly educated people, Figure 2 (good for you!).     This not not a typical result… therefore, I’m not going to make any inferences here.

Percent (%) of responders  for three groups of education: 1) blue= graduate school, 2) red= post secondary school, and 3) green= secondary school.
Figure 2, Percent (%) of responders for three groups of education: 1) blue= graduate school [61%], 2) red= post secondary school [37%], and 3) green= secondary school [2%].
6) How many times have you been married?

Majority skipped this question… fair enough!  So, I looked up some stats on marriage and divorce in the US. In 2009, 58% of women & 54 % of men (age 15+ married once), 12 % of men & 13 % of women had married twice, 3 % each had married three or more times (Kreider & Ellis 2011).  Again, no data here, so I can’t speculate on any correlations on the number of marriages and names.

7) After marriage, did you (or plan to) KEEP your surname?

The majority of responders said that they kept or morphed their name (70%) as opposed to those that changed (30%).

Percent (%) of responders for 5 answers: 1) blue= Yes,  "keep my name" [57%], 2) red= No, "change it" [30%], 3) green= Hyphenate [9%], 4) Other [4%], and 5) Fuse [0%].
Figure 3, Percent (%) of responders for 5 answers: 1) blue= Yes, “keep my name” [57%], 2) red= No, “change it” [30%], 3) green= Hyphenate [9%], 4) Other [4%], and 5) Fuse [0%].
Your comments:

“I absolutely loath fused names. just a point i felt i needed to make.”  (Female, Canada, 1986)

8) Rank the reasons for keeping/changing your surname.

The all together top 5 (weighted) reasons that you kept/ changed your surname were 1) personal identity, 2) professional identity, 3) Family Identity, 4) Hassle and 5) Aesthetics.

Your comments:

“I am not the property of my father, and i do not become the property of my husband upon marriage. my name is mine and i’ll keep it.” (Female, United Kingdom, 1987)

“I’ve always loved my last name. I think when/if I ever get married my decision to either keep or change my last name, or make up an entirely new one will depend in part on the last name of my partner. I really like the idea of making up a new last name, but I I think family identity is too important to me for me to be able to do that.” (Female, Canada, 1988)

“In my case, Reason # 1 was it would create too many confusions professionally with publications and taxonomy in terms of naming new species. I was already published and had named new species under my maiden name. Reason #2 is that most people find my husband’s name unpronounceable. I did not want to have to become “Dr. LeChe…. Dr. LeCheva…. Dr. LeChevali…. etc.” to students. Or worse, “Dr. L.” because people are completely incompetent at both reading and French.” (Female, USA, 1975)

“None of the reasons listed are particularly important to me – I don’t plan to get married or have married or have children and thus have no reason to change me name.” (Female, Canada, 1986)

“I changed mine for [children, religion, cultural reasons, and family identity] but also because I got married RIGHT before my first pub came out, so having it change would not show up on my CV. If I was already published, I’m not sure I would have changed it.”  (Female, USA, 1990)

“I like how his surname sounds with my first name. I want people to know I’m his wife. I feel that I have changed as a person since I’ve lived with my parents and consider my new name my adult name. I want to have the same name as our kids.” (Female, USA, 1984)

“I also get “Oh you’re one of those people” with the stigma that I must be a weak minded, living in the past woman who doesn’t know better. I took my husbands name simply because I wanted to. I always find it curious that people have an opinion of what others choose. Good for you for choosing what fit you. If “being one of those” means we are among strong happy women who know what suits them, then I am indeed on of those!” (Female, Canada)


Kreider  RM & Ellis R (2011) Number, Timing, and Duration ofMarriages and Divorces: 2009. U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, D.C. 10 pages.


I know statisticians hate pie charts.  (Viorel just made a point to tell me.)  So, to all you statisticians (or non-statisticians) that hate pie charts, I apologize but I just think they’re pretty and I never get to make them.  …Making up for lost pie chart time here.

Tavi and the Rex-a-roo wanted to have their pictures taken too (for the featured image in “What’s in a Name?”)… Viorel declined to participate.

IMG_4575 IMG_4577


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