Do Americans prefer presidents with daughters?

American Presidents with Daughters

In a blog post, Auren Hoffman wondered if politicians with daughters are more successful than those without. It's an intriguing thought, and there may be some truth to the suggestion. We focused on American presidents and discovered that each of the last 10 presidents had at least one daughter, but only five had sons.

Why would daughters have an impact? Perhaps voters think that presidents with daughters will be more empathetic to women's issues, or perhaps the following anonymous comment on the Marginal Revolution blog offers some insight:

ALL of my male friends who had children were changed for the better by having at least one daughter. It is not a wife who socializes a husband, it is a daughter.

Before Kennedy's presidency, however, there doesn't appear to be any benefit to having daughters. What could explain the switch at the Kennedy vs Nixon election? Perhaps it was because that was the first contest which included televised debates. Before television, it is likely that policies had a greater role in affecting voters' decisions, whereas in the television era, other factors such as charisma and empathy may have started to play a bigger role.

Click on the image on the left for a full-size view.

The table below displays all the children of all the presidents. If you notice any other patterns, let us know in the comments below.

President Terms Natural Daughters Adopted Daughters Step Daughters Daughters Died in Childhood Total Daughters Had Daughter? Natural Sons Adopted Sons Step Sons Son Died in Childhood Total Sons Had Son? Notes
George Washington211yes11yesboth children were 5 or younger when parents married
John Adams1213yes33yes
Thomas Jefferson2235yes11yeslikely had 6 illegitimate children with Sally Hemmings, of whom two girls and two boys survived, two daughters died young
James Madison2011yes
James Monroe222yes11yes
John Quincy Adams111yes33yes
Andrew Jackson222yes88yes
Martin Van Buren1044yes
William Henry Harrison144yes516yesdied after 1 month; one son died young
John Tyler1617yes88yesfinished Harrison's term; alleged to have an illegitimate son and daughter by slaves
James K. Polk100raised a nephew
Zachary Taylor1325yes11yesdied in office after 16 mo.
Millard Fillmore111yes11yesfinished Taylor's term
Franklin Pierce10123yestwo sons died before age 5; third son died age 11
James Buchanan100adopted his niece, but didn't raise her
Abraham Lincoln20314yeskilled in office 1 mo. into second term; one son died before age 5; two died in teens; one son survived to adulthood
Andrew Johnson122yes33yesfinished Lincoln's term
Ulysses S. Grant211yes33yes
Rutherford B. Hayes111yes437yesthree sons died before the age of 5
James A. Garfield1112yes415yesdied in office after 6 mo.; one son and one daughter died before the age of 5
Chester A. Arthur111yes112yesfinished Garfield's term; oldest son died age 2
President Terms Natural Daughters Adopted Daughters Step Daughters Daughters Died in Childhood Total Daughters Had Daughter? Natural Sons Adopted Sons Step Sons Son Died in Childhood Total Sons Had Son? Notes
Grover Cleveland233yes22yesnon-consecutive terms; 1 daughter died at 14
Benjamin Harrison111yes11yes
William McKinley222yes0died in office 6 mo. into 2nd term; both daughters died before the age of 5
Theodore Roosevelt222yes44yesfinished McKinley's term
William Howard Taft111yes22yes
Woodrow Wilson233yes0
Warren G. Harding1011yesdied in office after 2 yr. 5 mo.; stepson was 11 when they married, allegedly fathered an illegitimate daughter
Calvin Coolidge2022yesfinished Harding's term; one son died at 16
Herbert Hoover1022yes
Franklin D. Roosevelt411yes415yesdied in office shortly after beginning 4th term;
Harry S. Truman211yes0finished Roosevelt's term
Dwight D. Eisenhower20112yesson died at age 3
John F. Kennedy1112yes112yeskilled in office after 2 yr. 10 mo.
Lyndon B. Johnson222yes0finished Kennedy's term
Richard Nixon222yes0resigned from office after 19 mo. into 2nd term
Gerald Ford111yes33yesfinished Nixon's term
Jimmy Carter111yes33yes
Ronald Reagan2213yes112yes
George H. W. Bush1112yes44yesdaughter died age 4
William J. Clinton211yes0
George W. Bush222yes0
Barack Obama122yes0


Answer by  quadratic (73)

Its surprising to see how many children of presidents died at birth or in childhood. This continued all the way up to and including Kennedy! Presumably, American Presidents (and even before they were elected) had access to the best healthcare available.

posted by Anonymous
Not surprising at all considering good health care didn't really exist until the middle of the 20th century.  add a comment
Reply by yyynation76 (1):
I believe in the case of Kennedy, the daughter who died was a result of a miscarriage. No amount of health care can prevent that. Watch the way to word this, please.  add a comment

Answer by  benicio (257)

I buy the empathy argument. Even judges in the Great Sanhedrin (Jewish Supreme Court in ancient times) had to have children because the childless were less likely to be sympathetic and humble.


Answer by  toothpick (57)

Total sons of all presidents: 100 and total daughters 70... thats a pretty big difference over a pretty good sample size. I am not sure, but it seems statistically significant, and since daughters/sons should be relatively close to 50/50 maybe something else is happening there?


Answer by  Anonymous

You'd really have to compare these presidents to the candidates they defeated to make any kind of point here. Seems to me recent defeated presidential contenders had daughters too.

Reply by udaipur (219):
I don't think that would actually prove or disprove anything... I think the chart indicates that it might be really helpful at that level - this can be true even if the losing candidates had daughters too.  add a comment

Answer by  Krabi (112)

Amazing that 33 presidents had at least one son, and exactly the same number (33) had at least one daughter.


Answer by  Anonymous

has nobody noticed that the autosum feature of this spreadsheet also takes into account children that died and adds them to the total... just look at george h w bush and his daughter, and also ronald reagan had two daughters and one died, magically now he has three daughters?

Reply by calcutta (168):
So, a daughter that died in childhood shouldn't count? It's as if she never existed?  add a comment
posted by Anonymous
As someone with four grandchildren - 3 living, one stillborn - I believe the children count.  add a comment
posted by Anonymous
people replying to this comment don't understand - it's not whether they count, it's that they are being double-counted ... if you have 2 daughters and one dies, you don't get 3 daughters total  add a comment
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