Abstract

Context: The majority of studies linking health to political behavior capture an individual's health with an ordinal survey question, called self-rated health status (SRHS), that asks respondents to rate their health along a five-point scale (e.g., excellent to poor). While studies generally have found associations between SRHS and political behavior, differences in respondent understanding and interpretation of the SRHS question and response categories may lead to biased inferences and invalid analyses.

Methods: The author used anchoring vignettes to evaluate previous inferences regarding SRHS and political behavior, including voter turnout, political participation, and party identification.

Findings: Individuals who participate in politics are more health optimistic than those who rarely participate. Liberals tend to be less health optimistic compared to moderates. Once the SRHS measure is adjusted for interpersonal incomparability, it is no longer associated with voter turnout or party identification.

Conclusions: Researchers should note that adjusting for interpersonal incomparability in the SRHS measure influences our conclusions about health and political behavior. Scholars of political behavior must continue to think conceptually about what we mean by health, as well as critically about how to measure this concept accurately.

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