Six in 10 Americans Favor Easing Restrictions on Stem Cell Research

by Joseph Carroll

Nearly two in three say President Bush should not veto stem cell legislation

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Last week, Congress passed legislation to loosen government restrictions on funding medical research using stem cells obtained from human embryos. This legislation is similar to a bill that President George W. Bush vetoed last summer. The president has said he plans to veto the current bill as well. Recent Gallup polling finds that most Americans feel that embryonic stem cell research is morally acceptable, favor easing the current restrictions on stem cell research, and believe the president should not veto the new legislation.

President to Veto Bill on Government Funding of Stem Cell Research

According to an April 13-15, 2007, USA Today/Gallup poll, only 31% of Americans say the president should veto a bill to expand federal funding of embryonic stem cell research; 64% of Americans say the president should not veto the bill.

When Bush vetoed a similar bill last year, a Gallup survey found that 36% of Americans approved and 58% disapproved of that action.

Republicans are more likely than Democrats or independents to support a Bush veto on the stem cell research bill, but even Republicans are somewhat divided on their views of the matter. Half of Republicans would support the president's decision should he follow through on his commitment to veto the 2007 bill, while 44% would oppose it. Just 16% of Democrats say the president should veto the bill, while the vast majority, 80%, says he should not. Among independents, 29% support and 66% oppose a veto.

Public Support for Funding Stem Cell Research

The April survey also updated the following trend question on Americans' preferences for government funding of stem cell research:

As you may know, the federal government currently provides very limited funding for medical research that uses stem cells obtained from human embryos. Which would you prefer the government do -- [ROTATED: place no restrictions on government funding of stem cell research, ease the current restrictions to allow more stem cell research, keep the current restrictions in place, (or should the government) not fund stem cell research at all]?

The results show that 22% of Americans say the government should place no restrictions on government funding of stem cell research, while an additional 38% indicate that the government should ease current restrictions to allow more research. That amounts to 60% of Americans who support looser restrictions. Twenty percent believe the government should keep the current restrictions in place, and 16% say the government should not fund stem cell research at all.

Americans' support for easing the government's current restrictions on funding stem cell research has grown, compared with prior years. In 2004, 55% of Americans said the government should place no restrictions or ease current restrictions on stem cell research, and in 2005, 53% supported this.

There is still little public consensus, however, that the government should not place any restrictions on stem cell research, even though this view is at its highest point to date.

Democrats are substantially more likely than Republicans to support government funding of embryonic stem cell research. Seventy-two percent of Democrats say the government should ease current restrictions on stem cell research, including 35% who favor removing all restrictions. Less than half of Republicans say the government should place no restrictions (11%) or ease restrictions (34%) on stem cell research. Among independents, 20% say there should be no restrictions and 41% say restrictions should be relaxed.

Democrats and independents have consistently been more likely than Republicans to believe the government should end or ease restrictions on stem cell research funding. But, Republicans are more supportive of looser restrictions in the current poll than in the prior two. In 2004 and 2005, only about a third of Republicans said the government should at least ease restrictions on federally funding stem cell research; now, 45% feel this way.

Partisan Trend in Government Funding of Stem Cell Research
Results by Party Affiliation

2004 Oct

2005 May

2007 Apr

R

I

D

R

I

D

R

I

D

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

No restrictions

6

14

22

3

12

17

11

20

35

Ease restrictions

31

40

54

33

48

43

34

41

37

Keep current restrictions

36

25

12

34

21

20

29

19

15

Not fund at all

21

13

8

25

14

18

22

16

10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No restrictions/
Ease restrictions

37

54

76

36

60

60

45

61

72

Keep current restrictions/
Not fund at all

57

38

20

59

35

38

51

35

25

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note:
R refers to Republicans
I refers to independents
D refers to Democrats

Moral Acceptability of Stem Cell Research

Gallup's annual survey on values and beliefs, conducted May 10-13, 2007, included stem cell research in a long list of items that asked respondents to rate as morally acceptable or morally wrong. The results show that 64% of Americans say "medical research using stem cell obtained from human embryos" is morally acceptable, while 30% say it is morally wrong. The percentage of Americans that believe stem cell research is morally acceptable has gradually increased since a Gallup survey first asked the question in 2002 when 52% held this view.

Democrats are significantly more likely than independents or Republicans to say embryonic stem cell research is morally acceptable, with Democrats' beliefs now at their highest point since a Gallup survey first asked the question in 2002.

In the latest poll, 77% of Democrats say stem cell research is morally acceptable, compared with 63% of independents and 50% of Republicans. From 2002 through 2004, the three party groups were almost equally likely to say stem cell research was morally acceptable. Then, in 2005, Democrats and independents became much more likely to share this point of view than were Republicans. Over the past five years, the percentage of Republicans saying stem cell research is morally acceptable has only ranged between 47% and 53%.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,007 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted April 13-15, 2007. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,003 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 10-13, 2007. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error 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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Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/27898/Six-Americans-Favor-Easing-Restrictions-Stem-Cell-Research.aspx
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