WASHINGTON (August 23, 2004) — Despite exaggerated recent claims about the benefits of embryonic stem cell research, Americans strongly prefer funding research that does not require destroying human embryos. They also strongly oppose human cloning for either reproductive or research purposes.
These are the chief findings of survey questions commissioned by the Pro-Life Secretariat of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The questions are part of a national survey conducted by International Communications Research, which polled over one thousand American adults by telephone in mid-August.
The poll suggests that Americans are closely divided on federal funding of stem cell research that requires destroying human embryos, with 43 percent in favor and 47 percent opposed. However, when given a choice between funding all stem cell research (both adult and embryonic), and funding only alternatives such as adult stem cell research to see if there is no need to destroy embryos for research, Americans clearly prefer funding only adult stem cell research by a margin of 61 percent to 23 percent. Opposition to funding embryonic stem cell research is stronger among women, low-income Americans, seniors, and regular churchgoers.
The survey also shows that Americans overwhelmingly oppose the use of human cloning to create embryos for medical research, 80 percent to 13 percent.
"Cloning embryos for their stem cells is the logical next step in the embryonic stem cell research agenda," says Richard Doerflinger, Deputy Director of the USCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities. Americans also oppose cloning to provide children to infertile couples, 82 percent to 11 percent.
"Polls on embryonic stem cell research often fail to mention that the research requires destroying human embryos," says Doerflinger. "Yet this fact is essential to understanding the moral issue. Some polls also make exaggerated claims about the (hypothetical) medical benefits of embryonic cells, while ignoring the documented benefits of alternative research that poses no moral problem. No instrument for testing public opinion should mislead the public on these crucial aspects of the issue."
Poll questions and results are attached.
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.Questions asked by International Communications Research, a national research firm headquartered in Media, Pennsylvania. A weighted sample of 1001 American adults was surveyed by telephone August 13-17, 2004, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.
1. Stem cells are the basic cells from which all of a person's tissues and organs develop. Congress is considering the question of federal funding for experiments using stem cells from human embryos. The live embryos would be destroyed in their first week of development to obtain these cells. Do you support or oppose using your federal tax dollars for such experiments?
Don't know 9.0%
2. Stem cells for research can be obtained by destroying human embryos. They can also be obtained from adults, from placentas left over from live births, and in other ways that do no harm to the donor. Scientists disagree on which source may end up being most successful in treating diseases. How would you prefer your tax dollars to be used this year for stem cell research?
Supporting all methods, including those that require destroying human embryos, to see which will be most successful 23.0%
Supporting research using adult stem cells and other alternatives, to see if there is no need to destroy human embryos for research. 61.4%
Neither (volunteered) 8.0%
Don't know 6.7%
3. Should scientists be allowed to use human cloning to try to create children for infertile couples?
Don't Know 6.4%
4. Should scientists be allowed to use human cloning to create a supply of human embryos to be destroyed in medical research?
Don't Know 6.1%