Public opinion surveys, such as the one on Americans' feelings about doctors reported elsewhere in this issue (page 471), are a useful way of taking the nation's statistical pulse—but unfortunately they do not always explain why the pulse beats as it does. If the rhythm at times seems erratic, it may take some diagnostic skill to trace the cause.
This survey shows a noticeable quirk that conscientious doctors will want to examine. It should be no surprise to them to find that people in general like and respect their personal physicians. What may be surprising—and unexplained in statistical tables—is that there is a striking difference between Americans' good opinions of their own doctors and their impressions of doctors in general, whom they do not know personally.
There are possibly many reasons for this peculiarity. It can be reasonably assumed that patients, especially because they are involved in such an emotional