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.