Some leaders of medical organizations, as well as scholars have urged physicians to play a greater part in community affairs as a way of fulfilling an essential responsibility of their profession. In order to assess to what extent physicians are currently involved in community affairs, this study measures their voting rates, compares these rates to the general population and another profession, and determines whether participation rates have changed in recent history.
The researchers used data from the U.S. Bureau of Census Current Population Survey from 1996–2002 and from 1976–1992. The study found that physicians voted less than the general population in three out of the four elections studied, and that lawyers voted at a much higher rate than the general population. The study also suggests that low voter participation rates for doctors may date back to at least the late 1970s and early 1980s. The researchers recommend other activities that may be explored to determine whether physicians are engaged in community life such as serving on nonprofit boards, philanthropy, volunteering with community organizations and more widespread forms of political participation.