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Do Doctors Vote?

Abstract

BACKGROUND

Organizational leaders and scholars have issued calls for the medical profession to refocus its efforts on fulfilling the core tenets of professionalism. A key element of professionalism is participation in community affairs.

OBJECTIVE

To measure physician voting rates as an indicator of civic participation.

DESIGN

Cross-sectional survey of a subgroup of physicians from a nationally representative household survey of civilian, noninstitutionalized adult citizens.

PARTICIPANTS

A total of 350,870 participants in the Current Population Survey (CPS) November Voter Supplement from 1996–2002, including 1,274 physicians and 1,886 lawyers; 414,989 participants in the CPS survey from 1976–1982, including 2,033 health professionals.

MEASUREMENTS

Multivariate logistic regression models were used to compare adjusted physician voting rates in the 1996–2002 congressional and presidential elections with those of lawyers and the general population and to compare voting rates of health professionals in 1996–2002 with those in 1976–1992.

RESULTS

After multivariate adjustment for characteristics known to be associated with voting rates, physicians were less likely to vote than the general population in 1998 (odds ratio 0.76; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.59–0.99), 2000 (odds ratio 0.64; 95% CI 0.44–0.93), and 2002 (odds ratio 0.62; 95% CI 0.48–0.80) but not 1996 (odds ratio 0.83; 95% CI 0.59–1.17). Lawyers voted at higher rates than the general population and doctors in all four elections (P < .001). The pooled adjusted odds ratio for physician voting across the four elections was 0.70 (CI 0.61–0.81). No substantial changes in voting rates for health professionals were observed between 1976–1982 and 1996–2002.

CONCLUSIONS

Physicians have lower adjusted voting rates than lawyers and the general population, suggesting reduced civic participation.

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Acknowledgements

We thank David Rothman, PhD, of Columbia University for providing comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript and Mark Lopez, PhD, of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at the University of Maryland for contributing to the initial study design. David Grande conducted this research as a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania and presented it at the Society of General Internal Medicine Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, Calif on April 29, 2006.

Potential Financial Conflicts of Interest

None disclosed

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Correspondence to David Grande MD, MPA.

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Grande, D., Asch, D.A. & Armstrong, K. Do Doctors Vote?. J GEN INTERN MED 22, 585–589 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-007-0105-8

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KEY WORDS

  • professionalism
  • social science
  • community health
  • health policy