A recent analysis of voting trends of physicians has found that political contributions have gone up a lot and more of them have become Democrats; no surprise given Democratic efforts to increase federal presence in medicine.

The percentage of physicians making campaign contributions in federal elections increased to 9.4 percent in 2012 from 2.6 percent in 1991, and during that time physician contributors shifted away from Republicans toward Democrats. That trend was greater among lower paying specialties, such as pediatrics, and among women. 

Since information on campaign contributions in federal elections is publicly available, Adam Bonica, Ph.D., of Stanford University, California, and colleagues decided to analyze how the political behavior of physicians has changed.  They analyzed campaign contributions made by physicians from 1991 through the 2012 election cycle to Republican and Democratic candidates in presidential and congressional races and to partisan organizations, including party committees and super political action committees (Super PACs).

Physician contributions increased to $189 million from $20 million during the study period. Male physicians were more likely to donate to Republicans while female physicians are more Democrats. But since 1996, the percentage of physicians contributing to Republicans decreased to less than 50 percent in the 2007-2008 election cycle and again in the 2011-2012 election cycle. The authors attribute this to the dying breed of physicians in solo and small practices who are more likely to want fewer regulations.  Younger doctors have also been brought up in a 'teach to the protocol' environment, where the force of government and administration and the threat of lawsuits makes it necessary to gravitate toward a centralized, larger umbrella.

In the 2011-2012 election cycle, contributions to Republicans were more prevalent among men than women (52.3 percent vs. 23.6 percent); physicians practicing in for-profit vs. nonprofit organizations (53.2 percent vs. 25.6 percent); and surgeons vs. pediatricians (70.2 percent vs. 22.1 percent).

“Between 1991 and 2012, the political alignment of physicians in the United States changed dramatically. A profession once firmly allied with Republicans is now shifting toward the Democrats. Indeed, the variables driving this change – sex, employment type and specialty – are likely to continue to be active forces and to drive further changes,” the authors write.

Citation: JAMA Intern Med. Published online June 2, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.2105.