Public Backs Federal Funding for New Stem Cell Research

by Linda Lyons, Education and Youth Editor

Weekly churchgoers, conservatives less supportive

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, an honored speaker at the first evangelical Christian Justice Sunday rally last April, wasn't invited to Justice Sunday II in Tennessee last weekend. Frist may have been snubbed because he recently changed his position on government spending to support research on newly created stem cells obtained from human embryos, angering many conservative Christians who feel stem cells attained that way destroy human life.

According to a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll*, the majority of Americans (56%) agree with Frist that the federal government should "fund research that would use newly created stem cells obtained from human embryos." Forty percent say the government should not fund such research.

Those results are generally in line with what Gallup has found in its polling on the stem cell research issue. For example, in a May Gallup Poll, 60% of Americans described "medical research using stem cells obtained from human embryos" as morally acceptable, while 33% said it was morally wrong. Also in May, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll showed 53% favoring no restrictions or an easing of current restrictions of government funding of stem cell research, while 24% favored keeping the current restrictions in place and 19% opposed any kind of government funding of stem cell research.

Frequent Churchgoers, Conservatives Less Supportive of Federal Funding

Weekly churchgoers and ideological conservatives, in particular, are less supportive of federal funding for stem cell research. In the current poll, just 37% of weekly churchgoers support the funding of newly created stem cells obtained from human embryos, compared with 55% of Americans who attend church nearly weekly or monthly, and 69% of those who seldom or never attend church. Forty-two percent of conservatives agree that the government should fund research involving stem cells created from human embryos, versus 64% of moderates and 73% of liberals.

The House of Representatives passed a bill allowing an expansion of government financing of stem cell research in May, and the Senate may take it up as early as this fall. President George W. Bush, who believes using human embryos for research disregards the sanctity of life, has vowed to veto the bill if the Senate passes it. At that point, Congress will need a two-thirds majority of both houses to override the veto.

*These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,004 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Aug, 5-7, 2005. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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