The bodies politic: Chronic health conditions and voter turnout in the 2008 election

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36 Scopus citations


Health policy researchers often evaluate the social and economic consequences of chronic illness, but rarely have they considered the implications of chronic illness on one important form of political participation: voting. However, if chronic illnesses-already unequally distributed in society-are associated with differential rates of voter turnout, then these inequalities in democratic representation could, in turn, produce further health inequity. In this study, we use data from eight states from the 2009 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey to examine the associations between having diagnoses of five chronic conditions and turnout in the 2008 US presidential election. After adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics and some health-related confounding factors, we find that individuals with cancer diagnoses are more likely to vote, while those with heart disease diagnoses are less likely to vote. These associations differ by race and educational status; notably, African Americans and those with lower education with cancer are even more likely to turn out to vote than whites and those with more education with cancer.We discuss the implications of our findings in the context of health social movements and the role of health organizations in shaping political processes, important directions for the study of health politics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1115-1155
Number of pages41
JournalJournal of health politics, policy and law
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 by Duke University Press.


  • Chronic illness
  • Health politics
  • Inequalities
  • Voting


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