Only 11% of US population opposes Stem Cell Research

Published: August 17, 2004
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Those Favoring Stem Cell Research Increases to a 73 to 11 Percent Majority
A good issue for the Democrats

In 2001, a Harris Poll reported that a 3-to-1 majority believed that stem cell research should be allowed. Three years later, a new Harris Poll finds that this majority supporting stem cell research has increased to more than 6-to-1. Other changes since 2001 are a substantial increase in the number of people who have seen, read or heard about the debate on stem cell research, stronger support for arguments in favor of stem cell research and less support for arguments against it.

These results – if found in the private polling for the Democrats – may explain the decision to feature the strong plea in favor of stem cell research by President Reagan’s son, Ron Reagan, at the Democratic Convention in Boston.

As Democrats looked for issues where large majorities of the public support their positions and oppose those of President Bush, stem cell research must have caught their attention. In this new survey, the big majorities of the public who support their position on stem cell research must look very attractive. Furthermore, big majorities of Republicans and Independents, not just Democrats, support stem cell research.

Having said that, we should note that President Bush has not formally opposed all stem cell research. The law which he supported and signed restricted the use of federal funding (not other funding) for stem cell research to a small number of embryonic stem cell lines. It was a compromise which had the effect of restricting, but not eliminating, stem cell research.

These are some of the results of a nationwide survey of 2,242 adults interviewed online by Harris Interactive® between July 12 and 18, 2004.

The main findings include:

Those who say they have seen, heard or read about the debate on whether to allow stem cell research have increased from 68% in 2001 to 83% now.

The majority who believe that stem cell research should be allowed has increased from 61% to 21% in favor in 2001 to 73% to 11% in favor now.

This majority support for stem cell research includes almost all Democrats with opinions (80% to 5%) and Independents (83% to 7%) and a large, if smaller, majority of Republicans (60% to 18%).

Those who believe that “using stem cells from human embryos for research comes too close to allowing scientists play God” have fallen sharply from 40% in 2001 to only 19% now.

Those who believe that “allowing any medical research using stem cells from human embryos should be forbidden because it is unethical and immoral” have also fallen sharply from 32% to 15% over the last three years.
Religion and stem cell research

The level of opposition to stem cell research varies according to people’s religious beliefs. Those who describe themselves as “very religious” are much more likely to oppose stem research than those who are “not at all” or “not very” religious (23% vs. 4%). Born-Again Christians are more likely to oppose it than are other Christians (21% vs. 9%); and Catholics are somewhat more likely to oppose it than Protestants (15% vs. 10%).

However, clear majorities of all religious groups we analyzed favor stem cell research.