Religion and Social Trends

Update: Americans' Views on Stem Cell Research

Public continues to support Bush's stem cell decision

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Addressing the nation last Thursday, President Bush announced his much-anticipated decision on stem cell research. He stated the federal government would fund research only on stem cells that come from existing stem cell lines, and that no government money would go to assist research on stem cells from newly destroyed embryos, from embryos created specifically for research purposes, or from cloned embryos. Several CNN/USA Today/Gallup polls, including one conducted this past weekend, assess the public's views on stem cell research. The following are 12 questions and answers about how the public views this controversial issue.

1. Do Americans approve of President Bush's decision?

Yes. According to the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted August 10-12, 60% of Americans approve of Bush's decision on stem cell research, while 34% disapprove and 6% have no opinion. Immediately after he gave his address on August 9, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup instant reaction poll showed that 50% of the public approved of his decision, 25% disapproved and 25% had no opinion.

Republicans, who are generally less supportive of stem cell research, nevertheless approve of Bush's decision by a 79% to 16% margin, according to the latest poll. Democrats, generally more supportive of this type of research, tend towards disapproval, as 52% disapprove and 42% approve.

2. Why do critics of Bush's decision disapprove?

While some political leaders of both parties disagree with Bush's decision on the grounds that it is too strict and does not do enough to assist research on stem cells, the public sees things differently. Of the roughly one-third of Americans who say they disapprove of Bush's decision, most think that Bush's limitations on federal funding are "not strict enough."

Bush claimed in his televised address that his decision was grounded in his "deeply held beliefs." Despite overall support for the decision, a majority of Americans say that Bush's new stem cell policy was made on the basis of "political reasons" (52%) rather than his beliefs (36%).

3. What impact did Bush's televised address have on public opinion?

Support for Bush's new policy on stem cell research funding is generally higher among those who say they watched Bush's speech. The latest poll shows that support is 66% among speech-watchers and 55% among those who didn't see the speech. Thursday night's instant reaction poll showed an even stronger relationship between viewing the speech and supporting Bush's decision. Seventy-three percent of speech-watchers indicated support in that poll, as did just 40% of non speech-watchers (32% had no opinion).

4. Do most Americans agree with President Bush that embryos deserve the same protection as human life?

No. The latest poll shows that only 36% think embryos are human life and deserve the same protection. The majority, 60%, say that embryos have the potential for life, but because they cannot develop on their own into a human life -- at least at the early stage at which stem cells are extracted -- they do not constitute a human life.

5. What is the public's view on the morality of stem cell research?

Two recent Gallup polls show the public is divided over the morality of research using stem cells derived from human embryos. The new poll finds that 49% of Americans think the research is morally wrong, while 47% do not. A poll from July showed slightly more Americans believing it was immoral, 54%, compared to 39% saying it was not morally wrong.

6. Do Americans think that stem cell research is necessary?

Yes. More than seven in 10 Americans think research on stem cells is necessary, including 31% who think it is morally wrong. Just 23% of the public says that stem cell research is unnecessary. Most of this group considers the research morally wrong.

7. Do Americans support government funding of stem cell research in general?

Yes. At a very basic level, 55% of Americans say that the federal government should fund stem cell research, while 29% say it should not, according to an August 3-5 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll that was conducted before Bush's announcement. Religion plays an important role in shaping Americans' opinions on this topic (see discussion in Question 11, below). Support is generally higher among liberals, Democrats, and those with post-graduate education. Support is lower among conservatives, Republicans, and those with a high school education or less.

8. What kinds of stem cell research do Americans believe the government should fund?

There are several different sources of stem cells. The August 3-5 poll assessed Americans' support for federal funding of stem cell research depending on the source of the cells. The highest level of support, expressed by 68% of the public, is for government funding of research on stem cells taken from adults. A majority of Americans, 55%, think the federal government should fund research on stem cells taken from embryos created to assist in conception, but which will not be used for that purpose and will be discarded. Less than a majority, 46%, support funding for research on stem cells derived from embryos that were developed specifically for research purposes. Only 28% believe federal funds should assist researchers using stem cells cloned from human cells. Essentially, Bush's decision does not allow funding for any of these types of research.

9. How closely have Americans been following the controversy over stem cell research?

According to the latest poll, 57% of Americans are following the debate over government funding of stem cell research "very" or "somewhat closely." Only 12% say they are following it "very closely." This represents a significant increase from a month ago, when just 38% said they were following the debate closely (9% very closely, 29% somewhat closely). Several major news stories this year have received more public attention, including the disappearance of Chandra Levy (69%), Andrea Yates' murder of her five children (66%), and President Clinton's pardons (62%). It is, however, on par with public interest in Timothy McVeigh's execution (59%).

10. How important is the issue to Americans?

In the latest poll, almost eight in 10 Americans say the issue is either "very" (36%) or "somewhat" important (42%) to them. Only 21% say it is either "not too important" or "not at all important." Bush's speech may have affected the perceived level of importance among the public, as a poll conducted the weekend prior to his address showed 62% saying the issue was very or somewhat important.

11. What role does religion play in Americans' opinions on stem cell research?

Generally, the more religious Americans are, the less supportive they are of stem cell research. For example, regular church-goers are divided in their support of government funding for the research -- 43% say it should not be granted, but 42% say it should, according to the August 3-5 poll. Among those who do not attend church regularly, 60% favor government funding and just 23% oppose it.

A majority of regular churchgoers are opposed to government funding on research on all types of stem cells, except those that are taken from adults. A majority of people who don't regularly attend church favor funding for research of all types of stem cells, except those cloned from human cells.

Additionally, those who attend church regularly are much more likely than those who don't to say that stem cell research is morally wrong. However, there is little difference in the perceived importance of the issue among those who are more religious and those who are less so. Interestingly, a majority of regular church-goers still approve of Bush's decision on stem cell research, but less so than those who do not attend church regularly. Regular church-goers who disapprove of Bush's decision are most likely to say they do so because they feel his ban is not strict enough.

12. How do Catholics feel about stem cell research?

Catholics' views of stem cell research have been the subject of much speculation, since the church, led by Pope John Paul II, believes that research on stem cells is wrong. In fact, the Pope recently met with President Bush to discuss the issue. Additionally, Catholics are a politically important group -- they constitute about a quarter of the American adult population. Generally, Catholics' opinions do not differ that much from the general public. However,practicingCatholics, defined as those who attend church on a weekly or near weekly basis, do show more opposition to government funding of stem cell research than does the general public, and are more likely to think it is morally wrong.

Survey Methods

The results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,017 adults, 18 years and older, conducted August 10-12, 2001. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 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.

As you may know, President Bush gave a speech Thursday night on stem cell research, and he announced that he WOULD allow the government to fund research using stem cells that have been created in the past in a process that destroyed human embryos. The government will not fund stem cell research that would destroy additional embryos in the future.

Overall, do you approve or disapprove of Bush's decision on stem cell research?

 

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

       

2001 Aug 10-12

60%

34

6

       

2001 Aug 9 ^

50%

25

25

       

^

Based on one night poll of 581 national adults conducted directly after President Bush's speech on stem cell research. Polls conducted entirely in one day, such as this one, are subject to additional error or bias not found in polls conducted over several days.



Do you disapprove because the ban is -- [ROTATED: too strict (or) not strict enough]?

BASED ON -- 339 -- WHO DISAPPROVE OF BUSH'S DECISION; ±6 PCT. PTS.

 

 


Too strict


Not strict enough


No opinion

       

2001 Aug 10-12

36%

56

8

       

2001 Aug 9 ^

28%

52

20

       

^

From one night poll of 581 national adults conducted directly after President Bush's speech on stem cell research, n=152 for this question. Polls conducted entirely in one day, such as this one, are subject to additional error or bias not found in polls conducted over several days.



COMBINED RESPONSES

 

 

2001 Aug 10-12

2001 Aug 9 ^

     
 

%

%

Approve

60

50

     

Disapprove

34

25

   Too strict

12

7

   Not strict enough

19

13

   Don't know

3

5

     

No opinion

6

25

     

^

Based on one night poll of 581 national adults conducted directly after President Bush's speech on stem cell research. Polls conducted entirely in one day, such as this one, are subject to additional error or bias not found in polls conducted over several days.



Did you happen to watch any of Bush's speech on stem cell research Thursday night, or not?

 

 

Yes, watched

No, not

No opinion

       

2001 Aug 10-12

45%

55

*

       

2001 Aug 9 ^

32%

66

2

       

^

Based on one night poll of 581 national adults conducted directly after President Bush's speech on stem cell research. Polls conducted entirely in one day, such as this one, are subject to additional error or bias not found in polls conducted over several days.

 

WORDING: Did you happen to watch any of Bush's speech on stem cell research tonight, or not?



How closely have you followed the debate about government funding of stem cell research -- very closely, somewhat closely, not too closely, or not closely at all?

 

 

Very
closely

Somewhat closely

Not too closely

Not closely
at all

No
opinion

           

2001 Aug 10-12

12%

45

23

20

0

           

2001 Aug 3-5

18%

37

22

23

*

2001 Jul 10-11

9%

29

28

32

2



 

How important is the issue of stem cell research to you -- very important, somewhat important, not too important, or not at all important?

 

 

 

Very important

Somewhat important

Not too important

Not at all important

No
opinion

           

2001 Aug 10-12

36%

42

13

8

1

           

2001 Aug 3-5

25%

37

21

12

5



 

 

Do you think President Bush made his decision on stem cell research -- [ROTATED mostly because of political reasons (or) mostly because of his deeply held beliefs]?

 

 

Political
reasons

Deeply
held beliefs

BOTH/NEITHER
(vol.)

No
opinion

         

2001 Aug 10-12

52%

36

6

6



Thinking about embryos that have been created in a laboratory by fertilizing a woman's egg outside the womb and have not been implanted in a woman's womb. Which comes closer to your view about this type of embryo -- [ROTATED: the embryo is a human life that should be given the same protection as all other human lives, (or) the embryo has the potential for life, but is not the same as a life, because it cannot develop on its own]?

 

 

Life to be treated
with same protection
as other human lives

Potential for life,
but cannot
develop on its own


No
opinion

       

2001 Aug 10-12

36%

60

4



Now I would like to ask about a specific type of research on stem cells developed from human embryos that have been created outside a woman's womb. This kind of stem cell research destroys the embryos but may help find treatments for major diseases. As you may know, fertility clinics increase a woman's chance to have a child by fertilizing several embryos, but only a few are implanted in her womb to enable her to have a baby. Some stem cells are developed from the remaining embryos that the fertility clinics usually discard.

Which comes closest to your view of this kind of stem cell research -- [ROTATED: it is morally wrong and is unnecessary, it is morally wrong, but may be necessary, it is not morally wrong and may be necessary, (or) it is not morally wrong but is unnecessary]?

 

 

Morally wrong and is unnecessary

Morally wrong, may be necessary

Not morally wrong, may be necessary

Not morally wrong but is unnecessary


No
opinion

           

2001 Aug 10-12

18%

31

42

5

4

           

2001 Jul 10-11

20%

34

35

4

7



(vol) – volunteered response

* -- Less than 0.5%

Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/4792/Update-Americans-Views-Stem-Cell-Research.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030