Eitan Hersh on Physician Political Bias and Variation in Care

Publication date 
October 4, 2016

Eitan Hersh, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Yale and ISPS Resident Faculty Fellow, published a new study on the connection between physicians’ political beliefs and the way they provide medical treatment. Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the paper was co-authored with Matthew Goldenberg of Yale School of Medicine.

In the published study,  “Democratic and Republican Physicians Provide Different Care on Politicized Health Issues,” Hersh and Goldenberger obtained political party affiliation for over 20,000 primary care physicians in 29 states from voter registration databases. They then surveyed a sample group of Democratic and Republican physicians, and had them evaluate nine patient vignettes. The result was that on three particular issues (marijuana use, abortion and gun ownership), the physicians’ political beliefs played into the medical treatment. 

On the politicized health issues—and only on such issues—Democratic and Republican physicians differed substantially in their expressed concern and their recommended treatment plan.

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The research was funded by the Institution for Social and Policy Studies.