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Survey: Most OK Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Majority of Americans Approve or Strongly Approve; Conflicting Values Noted
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 14, 2005 -- Most Americans generally approve or strongly approve of research on embryonic stem cells, according to a new survey.

The topic has been controversial, and the new survey showed that conflict.

The survey, which was done in September, included about 2,200 U.S. adults. It was designed to be unbiased and comprehensive, the survey's authors note. They included Kathy Hudson, PhD, of the Genetics and Public Policy Center at the Phoebe R. Berman Bioethics Institute.

Their report is called "Values in Conflict: Public Attitudes on Embryonic Stem Cell Research."

About Stem Cell Research

Stem cells can develop into many different types of cells. Embryonic stem cells may be able to develop into a wider range of cells than adult stem cells. That's attracted attention from scientists seeking new treatments for conditions including Alzheimer's disease and paralysis.

Embryonic stem cells are isolated from human embryos, which results in the destruction of the embryos. That's prompted debate about the ethics of stem cell research.

Most Voiced Approval

One of the survey's questions was, "In general, do you strongly approve, approve, disapprove, or strongly disapprove of stem cell research?"

The answers:

  • Strongly approve: 22%
  • Approve: 45%
  • Disapprove: 17%
  • Strongly disapprove: 15%
  • Not applicable: 2%

Gender, Politics, Religion

Women were more likely to voice disapproval or strong disapproval of embryonic stem cell research (35% of women and 27% of men).

Democrats were more likely than Republicans to express approval or strong approval of embryonic stem cell research (75% of Democrats and 55% of Republicans).

Those with at least a college degree were more than twice as likely to strongly approve of embryonic stem cell research.

In addition, a "clear majority of those in all religion groups, except fundamentalist and evangelical Christians, approve of embryonic stem cell research," states the report.

No significant differences in approval or disapproval were seen by racial and ethnic background.

Conflicting Values

Participants were also asked how strongly they agreed or disagreed with five statements about embryonic stem cell research. Those statements included:

  • "It is really important to protect human embryos, even if it will delay the development of new medicines."
  • "It would be terrible if cures were delayed because of policies that make embryonic stem cell research difficult."

Thirteen percent of participants agreed or strongly agreed with statements about embryo protection and disagreed or strongly disagreed with statements promoting embryonic stem cell research.

The opposite views were expressed by 21% of the participants.

When asked what their bottom line was -- conducting embryonic stem cell research that might result in new medical cures or not destroying human embryos involved in that research -- 61% sided with research and 37% said not destroying embryos was more important.

Views Split

Participants were also split on how they viewed a human embryo in a Petri dish.

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