In the decades that followed, medical schools started accepting greater numbers of women, who are more likely to be Democrats (women today account for nearly half of U.S. medical students). Consolidation and the cost of new technology made it harder to own a small practice. Older physicians sold theirs, and new ones didn’t want to hang their own shingle, so they became employees of health systems. The result is fewer business-owner physicians who back the GOP for its pro-employer policies.
In addition, many doctors today start their careers with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student debt and little hope of earning the outsize incomes their predecessors did a generation ago.
The result is a fundamental leftward realignment of a politically powerful professional group, one that has been accelerated by recent politics, including doctor opposition to repealing the Affordable Care Act and unease some doctors express about President Trump. This phenomenon is changing where physicians choose to live and work, how they treat patients and how they influence the 2020 presidential race. It’s part of a larger turn among white-collar Americans toward the Democratic Party.
In 1990, 61% of national political campaign contributions by physicians went to Republicans, while 38% went to Democrats, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics. By last year, those numbers had essentially flipped, with nearly two-thirds of physician campaign contributions going to Democrats while one-third went to Republicans.
A 2016 Gallup poll found that 35% of doctors considered themselves Democrats while 27% were Republicans and 36% identified as independents.