Psychology PAC: How psychologists give

How and why psychologists participate in political giving.

As the 2018 midterm elections advance, health care will most likely receive significant attention on the campaign trails. Historically hospitals, insurers and physicians had the loudest voices on health care issues. In recent years, health professionals like nurses, chiropractors, dentists and optometrists have gained greater visibility and a louder voice in health care debates. How is that? These professions invested in their advocacy efforts by cultivating a culture of political giving and building strong political action committees (PACs), which in turn can support those candidates with a commitment to their discipline and profession.

Politics and money influence decisions that affect our health care system and the professionals working in it, including psychologists. PACs provide a vehicle to advocate for professional issues and build relationships with candidates running for Congress. Psychologists tend to fall behind most health professions when it comes to advocating for themselves through political giving. To gain a better understanding of why that occurs, the APA Practice Organization conducted an online survey to learn more about psychologists’ thoughts on political giving and their awareness of Psychology PAC. The survey was conducted in December 2017. Here’s how participants responded.

Engagement in advocacy and political giving

A large majority of respondents reported participating in political advocacy, but only slightly more than one-third said they had ever contributed to Psychology PAC. 

  • Eighty-five percent said that they had taken some type of political action in the past, including writing to a public official and giving money to a political cause.
  • Thirty-six percent said that they had contributed to a PAC before.

Those who have given a political contribution regularly or occasionally in the past were more likely to say that they are very or somewhat likely to make a contribution to the PAC in the future.

Q. Please indicate if you have regularly, occasionally, once or twice or never done any of the following. Net = regularly, occasionally, once or twice.

Knowledge of Psychology PAC

More than two-thirds said that they were familiar with Psychology PAC. Less than 1 in 4 said they knew that Psychology PAC is the only federal PAC that represents psychology. Despite this, responses to open-ended questions revealed that many respondents were confused about the role of the PAC and in particular how it compared with the work of the Practice Organization or APA.

Q. Are you aware that Psychology Political Action Committee (PAC) is the only federal PAC that represents psychology and the interests of professional psychologists?

Understanding the role of Psychology PAC

Q. What role do you believe Psychology PAC plays in advocating for professional psychologists?

Reasons for not participating in Psychology PAC

Respondents indicated that they had other financial priorities or that they thought they had contributed, or that they contribute to their state psychological association PACs instead. Others did not understand the purpose of a PAC, that APA cannot legally support a PAC or that Psychology PAC is under the Practice Organization. Some wrote: 

  • I believed that APA supported the work of the Psychology PAC.
  • I thought my membership contributed to it.
  • I thought some of the money in my APA dues and APAPO dues went to lobbying efforts.
  • I thought the PAC was part of membership in APA.
  • I give every year along with, but in addition to, my APA dues.
  • I regularly give to APA Practice Organization — so I am not sure why PAC does not fall under that rubric.

Q. Why is it unlikely that you would make a future contribution to Psychology PAC?

The survey was conducted Dec. 7-19, 2017. A total of 1,559 responses were submitted. Respondents were contacted via an email invitation sent to all APA Practice Organization members and Education Advocacy Trust members that had not given to Psychology PAC in the past two years.

Created in May 2012, Psychology PAC focuses on addressing practitioners’ and educators’ concerns, such as reimbursement for psychological services, inappropriate barriers to psychologists’ scope of practice and funding for psychology education and training. Psychology PAC is housed in the Practice Organization, a 501 (c) (6) organization that can legally maintain a PAC. APA as a 501 (c) (3) charitable nonprofit cannot establish a PAC.