Public Release: 

Participation by physicians in the voting process is unimpressive

Elsevier Health Sciences

With healthcare issues returning to the forefront of public attention, physicians might be expected to participate in elections at a relatively high rate. In the first study of physician voter turnout, to be presented at the 2007 Society for Academic Emergency Medicine (SAEM) Annual Meeting, evidence suggests that physician participation in the political process has declined over the past few decades.

Jennifer Lee, MD and Melissa McCarthy, ScD of Johns Hopkins Medical School designed a study to compare the voter turnout rate of physicians to other occupational groups. Nationally representative survey data were obtained from the November 1996, 2000 and 2004 Current Population Survey (CPS) administered by the United States (US) Census Bureau and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The November CPS includes supplemental questions on voting activity, including self or proxy-reported voter turnout, for all household members of voting age. Lee and her colleagues estimated unadjusted voter turnout rates by occupational group and the adjusted odds of different occupational groups voting compared to physicians controlling for socioeconomic differences among the groups. They included CPS participants who were eligible to vote and reported their occupation as one of the following: (1) physicians; (2) nurses; (3) lawyers; (4) engineers; (5) farmers; (6) teachers; (7) secretaries; (8); waiters; (9) drivers; or (10) laborers.

Approximately one out of four physicians reported not voting in the most recent presidential elections. Lawyers reported the highest voter turnout rate and laborers reported the least. After controlling for socioeconomic differences among the groups, physicians were no more likely to report having voted than secretaries, waiters, drivers, laborers, nurses or engineers. Physicians were significantly less likely to report voting compared with lawyers, teachers and farmers.

Dr. Lee concludes, "Physician voter turnout rates in presidential elections are relatively unimpressive considering that physicians have much at stake personally and professionally. One in four physicians did not vote in the last three presidential elections. If physicians remain silent, an important voice is lost in the political process."

The presentation is entitled "Are Physicians Good At Turning Out To Vote"" by Jennifer Lee, MD. This paper will be presented at the 2007 SAEM Annual Meeting, May 16-19, 2007, Chicago, IL on Saturday, May 19th, in the Health Care Policy poster session beginning at 1:00 PM in the River Exhibition Hall A & B of the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers. Abstracts of the papers presented are published in Volume 14, Issue 5S, the May 2007 supplement of the official journal of the SAEM, Academic Emergency Medicine.

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