2020

Are people who vote healthier than those who don’t?


Better individual and community health may be related to voting habits, UCLA study shows.

graphic of hands reaching out to American flag and voting booth

A new policy brief by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research shows that California adults who in are good health with little psychological distress are more likely to consistently vote in local, state and national elections than those with physical or psychological health issues.

The brief, which uses data from the center’s 2017 and 2018 California Health Interview Survey, also provides evidence that state residents who vote tend to live in more advantaged communities than those who don’t. The authors note that these disparities in voting may make it less likely that the needs of less healthy and more disadvantaged Californians are being heard and addressed. The center's director is Ninez Ponce, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health professor of health policy and management.

The percentage of adults who reported always voting was highest among those who said they were in excellent or very good health (40.9%) and who had experienced no psychological distress in the past year (40.1%), the authors found. Among those in fair or poor health, 32.7% said they always voted, while only 23.3% of respondents who had experienced psychological distress voted consistently.

“We found differences in voting by health and neighborhood factors that suggest that people who vote are healthier, have better access to health care and live in more cohesive and safer neighborhoods than those who don’t vote,” said Susan Babey, lead author of the study and a senior research scientist at the center. “These differences in civic activities such as voting could contribute to policies that fail to meet the health needs of Californians who are less healthy, face barriers in access to health care and live in disadvantaged communities, which may in turn lead to greater inequities in health.”

While the study looked at adult Californians who are U.S. citizens and likely eligible to vote, the findings indicate that approximately 400,000 of these residents believe they are ineligible. Factors such as age, race and ethnicity, education, and income were shown to play a role in this belief, according to the study’s authors.

Latinos, individuals in Generation X (ages 38 to 53), those with less than a high school education and those in the lowest income group (0% to 99% of the federal poverty level) were most likely to report that not being eligible was the main reason they were not registered to vote. Among those who said they weren’t registered because they didn’t know how or where to register, the percentage was highest for Asian citizens (11.7%) and those with limited English proficiency (14.2%).

“Many California adults offered reasons for not being registered, such as incorrectly believing they are not eligible to vote or not knowing how to register, that could be addressed with targeted voter engagement efforts,” Babey said. “Importantly, these reasons were more likely to be offered by groups that already experience health inequities, including low-income adults, those with limited English proficiency, Latinos and Asians.”

Other key findings include:

  • Those who live in areas that have high levels of social cohesion — defined as a sense of connectedness and unity among neighbors — reported higher rates of always voting (49.5%) than those in areas with low cohesion (27.5%).
  • Respondents who perceived their neighborhoods as safe all of the time were most likely to report that they always vote (43%) while those who felt their neighborhoods were mostly unsafe were least likely (23.2%).
  • Nearly 9 in 10 U.S.-born and naturalized citizens in California reported that they are registered to vote. Among those registered, 44% said they always vote in presidential, state and local elections; 17% said they frequently vote; 34% said they vote sometimes; and 5% said they never vote.

“We recommend a combination of strategies to increase participation in voting and other activities,” said Joelle Wolstein, co-author of the study and a research scientist at the center. “These include providing civics education and preregistration opportunities in settings such as high schools and supporting integrated voter-engagement activities, both during and between elections, including get-out-the-vote efforts, education and issue advocacy.”

Written by: Elaiza Torralba

Faculty Referenced by this Article

Dr. Ninez Ponce
Ninez Ponce
Health Policy and Management
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Susan Babey
Susan Babey
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Jonathan Fielding
Jonathan Fielding
Health Policy and Management
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Jody Heymann
Jody Heymann
Epidemiology Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Alice Kuo
Alice Kuo
Health Policy and Management
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Paul Chung
Paul Chung
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Paul Fu, Jr.
Paul Fu, Jr.
Health Policy and Management
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Rosenstock
Linda Rosenstock
Environmental Health Sciences Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Thomas Rice
Thomas Rice
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Yvonne Flores
Yvonne Flores
Health Policy and Management
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Annette Maxwell
Health Policy and Management
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Moira Inkelas
Moira Inkelas
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Arturo Vargas Bustamante
Arturo Vargas Bustamante
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Daniel Eisenberg
Daniel Eisenberg
Health Policy and Management
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Julie A. Elginer

EMPH Academic Program Director with expertise in healthcare marketing, finance, and reproductive health policy, teaching in the EMPH, MPH, MHA program

Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Felicia Hodge
Felicia Hodge
Health Policy and Management
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Clifford Ko
Clifford Ko
Health Policy and Management
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Jean Balgrosky
Health Policy and Management
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Brennan Spiegel
Health Policy and Management
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Beth Glenn
Health Policy and Management
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Lillian Gelberg
Health Policy and Management
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Ron Andersen

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Health Policy and Management
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Mark Litwin
Health Policy and Management
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Sandra Aronberg
Health Policy and Management
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Emily Abel
Health Policy and Management
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Naomi Zewde
Health Policy and Management
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Aria Fallah
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Risha Gidwani
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Vickie Mays
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Ty Robbins
Health Policy and Management
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Jennifer Wortham
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James Macinko
James Macinko

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Community Health Sciences Health Policy and Management
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Anthony Hunter Schiff
Health Policy and Management
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Stephanie L. Taylor

Nationally recognized health services researcher and sociomedical scientist with 25+ years' experience in effectiveness and implementation research.

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Dr. Frederick Zimmerman
Frederick Zimmerman
Health Policy and Management
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Kristen Choi
Health Policy and Management
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Laura Erskine
Laura Erskine
Health Policy and Management
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Isomi Miake-Lye
Isomi Miake-Lye
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. John Lu
Z. John Lu
Health Policy and Management
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Kadiyala, Srikanth
Srikanth Kadiyala
Health Policy and Management
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Corrina Moucheraud
Corrina Moucheraud
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Xi Zhu
Xi Zhu
Health Policy and Management
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Patricia Ganz
Patricia Ganz
Health Policy and Management
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Thomas D. Gordon
Health Policy and Management
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Pamela Davidson
Health Policy and Management
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Neal Halfon
Health Policy and Management
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David Hayes-Bautista
Health Policy and Management
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Leah Vriesman
Leah Vriesman
Health Policy and Management
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Jeanne Miranda
Jeanne Miranda
Health Policy and Management
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Nadereh Pourat
Nadereh Pourat
Health Policy and Management
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Sangeeta Ahluwalia
Sangeeta Ahluwalia
Health Policy and Management
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Jose J. Escarce
Health Policy and Management
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Ron D. Hays
Ron D. Hays

@UCLA since 1997

Health Policy and Management
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Gerald Kominski
Gerald Kominski
Health Policy and Management
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Roshan Bastani
Health Policy and Management
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Freund, Deborah
Deborah Anne Freund
Health Policy and Management
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Jack Needleman
Jack Needleman
Health Policy and Management
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Michael Ong
Michael Ong
Health Policy and Management
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Arlene Fink
Health Policy and Management
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Barbara Berman
Health Policy and Management
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Michael Galper
Health Policy and Management
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Olivia Jung
Health Policy and Management
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Lori Pelliccioni
Health Policy and Management
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Warren Scott Comulada
Warren Scott Comulada
Health Policy and Management
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Alan Tomines
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Elizabeth (Becky) Yano
Elizabeth (Becky) Yano
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. William McCarthy
William J. McCarthy
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Samuel Sessions
Samuel Sessions
Health Policy and Management
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Mangione, C
Carol Mangione
Health Policy and Management
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Burt Cowgill
Burt Cowgill
Health Policy and Management
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Robert Brook
Health Policy and Management
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Kenneth Wells
Health Policy and Management
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William Comanor
Health Policy and Management
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Robert Kaplan
Robert Kaplan
Health Policy and Management
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Steven Teutsch
Health Policy and Management
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Thomas Priselac
Health Policy and Management
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Susan Ettner
Health Policy and Management
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Dylan Roby
Health Policy and Management
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Yusuke Tsugawa
Yusuke Tsugawa
Health Policy and Management
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Avram Kaplan
Health Policy and Management
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Joann G. Elmore
Health Policy and Management
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Diana Hilberman
Health Policy and Management
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Michelle S. Keller

Dr. Michelle S. Keller is a health services researcher whose research focuses on the use and prescribing of high-risk medications.

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