Americans Oppose Idea of Human Cloning

by Jeffrey M. Jones and Joseph Carroll

But many support cloning used for research that does not result in the birth of a baby

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The issue of human cloning resurfaced this week -- the Senate's bid to impose a six-month moratorium on human embryo cloning failed, and the United Kingdom banned cloning that would create live babies. Opinion polling on this issue shows widespread public opposition to human cloning, with roughly nine in 10 Americans against it. However, Americans do seem to favor cloning that creates human cells to aid in medical research for disease treatment, just so long as it does not create new human beings. The public is generally more supportive of animal cloning than of human cloning, but still almost two-thirds of Americans oppose the cloning of animals. The following reviews key questions and answers about the public's view of this controversial issue.

1. How Does the American Public Feel About the Cloning of Humans?

Since the issue surfaced four years ago, Americans have consistently expressed overwhelming opposition to human cloning.

Two 2001 Gallup polls show that roughly nine in 10 Americans oppose the idea of human cloning. A Gallup poll conducted in May found 88% of Americans saying human cloning should not be allowed if it ever becomes possible. Similarly, the most recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll of Nov. 26-27 finds 88% opposed to "cloning that is designed specifically to result in the birth of a human being."

When Dolly the sheep was first cloned in 1997, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found that 87% of Americans said human cloning would be a bad thing for humanity, and 88% said that it would be morally wrong. In February 2001, a Time/CNN poll showed that 90% of Americans feel it is a bad idea to clone human beings. The same poll asked Americans if scientists should be allowed to clone humans, and roughly the same percentage said they should not.

The May 2001 Gallup poll also asked the American public whether several issues facing the nation were morally acceptable or morally wrong. The poll found that cloning humans and adultery tied as the least morally acceptable acts, with almost nine in 10 saying they were morally wrong.

2. Why Do Americans Oppose Cloning?

Religious beliefs are the main reason for opposition to cloning, according to a February 2001 Time/CNN poll. About one-third of those who feel cloning humans is a bad idea say it is due to their religious beliefs. The poll also found that 22% believe that cloning interferes with distinctiveness and individuality, while the same percentage said cloning could be used for questionable purposes. Fourteen percent said the technology involved is very dangerous. In the same poll, almost seven in 10 Americans said cloning humans was against God's will.

A Pew Research Center poll, conducted in March 2001, asked Americans what primarily influenced their thinking about unrestricted scientific research related to human cloning. Thirty-five percent of Americans said religious beliefs had the biggest influence, followed by the media at 21%, and education on the subject at 19%.

3. Which Groups of Americans Are Most Supportive of Cloning?

According to the May 2001 Gallup poll, the vast majority of Americans, across almost all demographic subgroups, oppose human cloning. However, those with the highest levels of education and income are somewhat more supportive of cloning, and actually give majority support to the cloning of animals. Similarly, men are somewhat more supportive of cloning than are women, even though eight in 10 men still oppose it.

4. Under Which Circumstances Are Americans More Supportive of Cloning?

The latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows that a majority of Americans, 54%, support "cloning that is not designed to specifically result in the birth of a human being, but is designed to aid medical research that might find treatment for diseases." Forty-one percent are opposed. Men are more supportive of this type of cloning than are women, and younger Americans are more supportive than are older Americans -- six in 10 Americans below age 50 express support, while just 46% of those age 50 and above do so. There are only slight differences in support according to political party, but liberals (64%) and moderates (62%) are much more supportive than are conservatives (44%).

An IPSOS/Reid poll, conducted Nov. 30 to Dec. 2, also shows majority support for the cloning of embryos. A plurality of Americans, 39% said scientists should be allowed to clone human embryos, but not full-grown humans, while another 21% opposed any restrictions on cloning. Thirty-three percent supported a ban on all types of cloning. In June, IPSOS/Reid found 42% supported a complete ban, 39% supported cloning only on human embryos, and 17% preferred no restrictions on cloning. These results suggest that Americans may be becoming somewhat more comfortable with the idea of cloning, as long as it is not used to create new human beings.

A Time/CNN poll conducted in February of this year asked the American public about specific situations in which human cloning would be justified. The greatest support, 28%, was for the production of copies of vital human organs to help save lives. Roughly one in five feel cloning would be justified either to save the life of the person being cloned, or to help infertile couples to have children without having to adopt. Just one in 10 Americans feel cloning would be justified in the following circumstances: to allow parents to have twin children at a later date if they wanted, to allow parents who have lost a child to create a clone of the lost child, or to allow gay couples to have children using their own genes. Americans are least supportive of cloning if it were to be done to create genetically superior human beings.

Time/CNN
2001 Feb 7-8
(sorted by "yes, justifies")

Yes, justifies

No, does not justify

%

%

To produce copies of humans whose vital organs can be used to save the lives of others

28

68

To save the life of the person who is being cloned

21

74

To help infertile couples to have children without having to adopt

20

76

To allow parents to have twin children at a later date if they wanted to

10

88

To allow parents who have lost a child to create a clone of the child they lost

10

88

To allow gay couples to have children using their own genes

10

86

To create genetically superior human beings

6

92

5. How Do Americans Feel About the Cloning of Animals?

While a majority of Americans oppose the cloning of animals, such opposition is not as widespread as the opposition to cloning of humans.

Three polls conducted this year examined the issue.

  • A May 2001 Gallup poll showed that 64% of Americans thought animal cloning should not be allowed, which is 25 percentage points lower than the 89% who oppose human cloning.
  • An August 2001 ABC/BeliefNet poll found almost six in 10 saying animal cloning should be illegal, while a substantial 37% said it should be legal.
  • According to a February 2001 Time/CNN poll, roughly two-thirds of all Americans say it is a bad idea to clone animals such as sheep. Eighty-six percent were opposed to human cloning.

A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll from April 2001 asked the public specific questions about animal and human cloning. This poll found that roughly one-third of Americans feel it would be morally acceptable to use cloning to reproduce endangered species, followed by reproducing livestock at 27%, and reintroducing extinct species at 23%.

Fox News/Opinion Dynamics
2001 Apr 18-19
(sorted by "morally acceptable")

Morally acceptable

Not acceptable

     
 

%

%

To reproduce endangered species

32

61

To reproduce livestock

27

66

To reintroduce extinct species

23

69

To reproduce a beloved pet such as a dog or cat

16

79

To reproduce humans

6

90

Those with the highest levels of education and income give majority support to the cloning of animals, and men are more supportive than women. There is also a religious dimension to patterns of support for cloning, with non-religious Americans being far more supportive of animal cloning than are those who are more religious. In fact, a majority of Americans who say religion is "not very important" in their lives say that cloning of animals should be allowed. This drops to 40% among those who say religion is "fairly" important in their lives, and only 22% among those who say religion is "very" important in their lives. By contrast, there are only minor differences among these groups' support for human cloning, with more than 80% of the religious as well as the non-religious opposed to it.

 6. What Do Americans Think the Future Holds for Cloning?

Most Americans do not expect that cloning will be possible or frequent in the near future. In a February 2001 Time/CNN poll, 45% of Americans think it will be possible to create human clones in the next 10 years, while 23% say in 20 years, and 10% say in 50 years. Fifteen percent of respondents say it will never be possible to clone humans. A USA Today/Gallup poll conducted in September 1998 found that most Americans do not feel that cloning will play a major role in their lives by the year 2025. In the poll, roughly two-thirds of Americans feel human cloning will not be legal in 2025 and six in 10 do not feel human cloning will be commonplace in 2025. A substantial minority of Americans, however, feel human cloning will be commonplace by 2025.

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