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Red doc, blue doc, rich doc, rich doc

Monica Cuddy points us to a news article by Margot Sanger-Katz, “Your Surgeon Is Probably a Republican, Your Psychiatrist Probably a Democrat,” which reports a data analysis by political scientist Eitan Hersh and psychiatrist Matthew Goldenberg performed by mashing up “two large public data sets, one listing every doctor in the United States and another containing the party registration of every voter in 29 states.”

The above graphs shows the partisan leanings for several medical specialties, and they also supply this scatterplot of partisanship by income:

This set of graphs from Red State Blue State is also relevant. But what really struck me about the that graph of political leanings vs. salary is that lower bound of the salary scale is $200,000. That’s a high-paying field where the average salary is so high for even the lowest-paying specialties!

P.S. In a welcome and unusual step for a news article, Sanger-Katz summarizes the methods in some detail:

Hersh and Goldenberg constructed the data set by assembling a large sample of doctors from the federal government’s National Provider Index, a file of every physician in the United States who either bills insurance or shares data digitally. There are very few doctors who are not included in this file.

They then matched each physician to data from state voter files maintained by Catalist LLC, a political data vendor. The researchers searched for doctors with matching names, living within a small geographic radius from their practice address. Not every doctor matched. Some had moved; some were not registered to vote; some had changed their names; some had common names that made it hard to make a definitive match; some lived nearby in states where the voter file does not include political information; and there may have been some mistakes in each file. But over all, the researchers were able to collect complete data for more than 55,000 physicians living in the 29 states where voter files include party registration. (Those states contain about 60 percent of the population, and are roughly, but not perfectly, representative of the country.)

For many of the measures in this article, we looked only at the percentage of “partisan” doctors, that is, doctors who recorded a political party. There was a substantial fraction of the physicians with no political affiliation, and there was a small fraction who were registered with smaller political parties. Altogether, the analysis looks at just over 36,000 doctors.

14 Comments

  1. Jordan Ellenberg says:

    It would be interesting to see this scatterplotted against the sample proportion of men in each specialty.

  2. Thanatos Savehn says:

    I suspect that party registration is a noisy proxy for any profession’s collective politics. I once lived in a Texas county that went 83% for the Democrat presidential nominee despite the fact that his opponent was a Texan. The county was so blue that almost every doctor and businessman I knew was a registered Democrat – not because they leaned left but so they could vote in the primaries for the pro-business Democrat. Rs were a ballot rarity for local races come November as the great majority were uncontested.

  3. Eric says:

    I would love to see this for other countries (using some kind of a right-left measure), especially in places where doctors are not as highly compensated as in the US.

  4. Martha (Smith) says:

    Mildly interesting observation: The two medical specialties that I tend to think of as most “quackish” are at the extremes of the political spectrum (psychiatrists and orthopedists).

    • Heh heh… I wonder why orthopedics is not listed in the first graph. Maybe there were too few of them in this dataset.

      I am also surprised to learn that anesthesiologists make so much more than psychiatrists.

      In any case, I agree with Andrew that it’s good to see a news article describe a study’s methodology in such detail.

  5. Roger says:

    Anyone have theories for this? It seems to me that Democrats are more concerned with social problems, and Republicans with individual problems. Orthopedists deal with individual mechanical problems that do not affect anyone else. Pediatricians and psychiatrists often deal with situations where the only problem is that someone is not getting along with others.

  6. Mikhail says:

    Medical professions ending on “ology” have a bigger change of being Republican.

    • jrc says:

      Pre-Registered Hypothesis: Calling a pediatrician a pediatrologist will lead them to score higher on the 12-Item Social and Economic Conservatism Scale (SECS).

      Secondary Hypothesis: this effect may be modified or suppressed by renaming the scale from a suggestive sexual acronym (SECS) to an acronym suggestive of political corruption (CESS).

      Anyone got like 15 undergrads sitting around we could test this on? Or a Mechanical Turk account we could use to offer people half the minimum wage to take our tests? Either one is fine…

  7. Sean Matthews says:

    I know a professor of paediatric anaesthesiology.

  8. Kaiser says:

    One big omission is how they assigned each physician his/her specialization. (Does every doctor in the U.S. has one and only one specialization?) The other is the proportion unregistered/no affiliation.

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