Thursday, Dec. 14, 2006
Streaming videos (Windows Media format):
Americans' support for stem cell research has declined
slightly, reversing a three-year trend, but an overwhelming majority
paradoxically supports the use of such cells in pursuit of treatment for
themselves or family members, according to the sixth annual Virginia
Commonwealth University Life Sciences Survey released Thursday.
of Americans that supports embryonic stem cell research was 54 percent in the
new survey, down from 58 percent in the 2005 survey. The poll found that in
tandem with the 54 percent of Americans who support embryonic stem cell
research, 37 percent strongly or somewhat oppose it, up from 32 percent last
The VCU Life Sciences Survey was conducted by telephone with
1,000 adults nationwide from Nov. 7 through Nov. 21. The margin of error for
the poll is plus or minus 3 percentage points. Previous surveys have been
conducted in September, and all have been conducted for VCU Life Sciences by
the VCU Center for Public Policy through its
Survey and Evaluation Research Laboratory.
Also this year, when asked if they would support the use of
embryonic stem cells in order to pursue treatment for themselves or family
members afflicted with a condition such as Parkinson's Disease or a spinal cord
injury, 70 percent said they would support the use of embryonic stem cells,
compared with 68 percent in 2005. Twenty-one percent said they would not
support the use of embryonic stem cells to treat these conditions, compared
with 17 percent in 2005.
polling expert David J. Urban, Ph.D., director of the Survey and Evaluation
Research Laboratory in the Center for Public Policy, said the apparent
inconsistency in survey respondents' opposition to stem cell research but their
support for the technology if it would help them or a family member is the
result of bringing the issue to a personal level.
"When you bring it down to a
personal level and ask how it would affect them personally if they or a family
member were afflicted with a particular disease, it puts the issue in a
different light," he said.
the results for most every question on the survey, with the exception of
opinions on embryonic stem cell research, remained consistent with the previous
five years of polls. He
said this year's election may have had an impact on the results of the question
dealing with the type of stem cell research holding the most promise for
treatment of disease, but not on the other results.
also found that the number of Americans who said that research using stem cells
from other sources held the greatest promise for discovering new treatments for
disease fell to 25 percent from 37 percent in 2005. Embryonic stem cell
research was indicated by 22 percent of the respondents for holding the
greatest promise, up from 14 percent in 2005, and 17 percent believed that adult stem
cell research offered the greatest promise, up from 7 percent in 2005.
Views on embryonic stem cell research continue to be related
to views on abortion and religion, according to the poll.
In terms of Americans' opinions on abortion, the biggest
change in the survey was among people who feel abortion should be illegal in
all circumstances. Seventy-seven percent of these people oppose research using
stem cells from human embryos, compared with 18 percent in favor. These
percentages were 64 percent and 17 percent, respectively, in 2005. The results
show a corresponding reduction in the number of "don't know" and "no answer"
responses between 2005 and 2006. In other words, Urban said, "people who feel
abortion should always be illegal are more likely to express a definite
negative view toward embryonic stem cell research this year."
By contrast, those who feel abortion should always be legal
are in favor of stem cell research by a 76 to 17 percent majority, similar to
the 77 to 16 percent spread in 2005.
addition, 68 percent of
people who say that religion is not an important part of their life say they
are in favor of embryonic stem cell research. In contrast, 40 percent of people
who say that religious beliefs provide a great deal of guidance for their
day-to-day living are in favor of embryonic stem cell research.
The 2006 survey also showed that opposition to human cloning
remains strong, but is softening, with 79 percent of Americans either somewhat
or strongly opposed to human cloning, compared with 81 percent in 2005, and 83
percent in 2004.
Other highlights from the poll:
percent of Americans report that developments in science have helped to
make society better and 88 percent say this about new technology as well.
percent agree that scientific research is essential for improving the
quality of human lives.
percent agree that new technology in medicine allows people to live longer
percent agree that scientific research doesn't pay enough attention to the
moral values of society.
percent say that scientific research has created as many problems for
society as solutions.
and its methodology are posted online at http://www.vcu.edu/lifesci/.
About VCU and VCU Medical Center
Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 226 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-seven of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University comprise VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. For more, see www.vcu.edu.