Coming on the heels of last week’s announcement that South Korean scientists had cloned a human embryo, the U.S. House is nearing a vote on expanding federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. President Bush has threatened to veto the legislation if it passes. Surveys last year by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found growing public interest in the issue, with majorities believing that the potential benefits of embryonic stem cell research outweigh the destruction of human embryos involved in this research.
In a poll of 2,000 adults conducted December 1-15, 2004 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, nearly half of the public (47%) said it had heard a lot about the issue, up from 42% in August and 27% in March 2002. A clear majority of those polled (56%) said that it was more important to conduct stem cell research that might result in new medical cures than to avoid the loss the potential life of human embryos involved in this research (32%).
As in August of last year, people who say they have heard a lot about the issue are more supportive of stem cell research than those who are paying less attention. Among those who say they have heard a lot about the issue, 65% support stem cell research.
Opposition to stem cell research is greatest among white evangelical Protestants, 58% of whom believe that protecting potential life of embryos is more important. But mainline Protestants are strongly in favor of the research, with 69% believing that stem cell research’s benefits outweigh the costs. And despite Vatican objections to embryonic stem cell research, a solid majority of Catholics (63%) support such research.
Politically, the stem cell issue could prove beneficial for the Democratic Party. Fully two-thirds of Democrats (68%) favor stem cell research, but so too do 58% of independents. By contrast, Republicans are divided on the issue, with 45% favoring the research and 45% believing that it is more important to protect the potential life of embryos.
Similarly, self-described conservatives are divided (44% in favor, 45% against), while majorities of moderates and liberals are in favor.
There are modest generational differences in opinion on the issue. Younger people are more supportive of stem cell research than older people, with 61% of those age 18-29 favoring the research compared with just 50% among those 65 and older. But opposition is not higher among the oldest cohort; instead, older people are more likely to say they do not have an opinion on the issue.
About the Survey
Results for this survey are based on telephone interviews conducted under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International among a nationwide sample of 2,000 adults, 18 years of age or older, from December 1-16, 2004. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.
In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.
Views on Stem Cell Research
|March 2002||December 2004|
|More important to…||More important to…|
|Conduct research||Not destroy embryos||DK/Ref||Conduct research||Not destroy embryos||DK/Ref||Change in conduct research|
|Race and Sex|
|Sex and Age|
|Men under 50||49||36||15||60||30||10||+11|
|Women under 50||43||42||15||58||32||10||+15|
|High School Grad.||34||44||22||54||34||12||+20|
|< H.S. Grad.||36||37||27||46||37||17||+10|
|Total White Protestant||38||43||19||52||38||10||+14|
|Party and Ideology|
|Attend Religious Services|
|Montdly or Less||49||33||19||67||22||11||18|