WASHINGTON –– A new public opinion poll released Sept. 16 shows that 47 percent of Americans oppose federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research, while 38 percent support such funding.
The poll, conducted by International Communications Research in Media, Pa., surveyed a random sample of 1,006 adults Sept. 8-14. It was commissioned by the U.S. bishops’ pro-life secretariat.
Survey respondents were informed that stem cells also can be obtained from adults, placentas, live births and other means that do no harm to the donor. They also were told that scientists disagree on whether stem cells from embryos or from such alternative sources may end up being most successful in treating diseases.
Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they favor funding only the research avenues that do not harm the donor, while only 21 percent favored funding all stem-cell research, including research that involves killing embryos.
The same day the poll results were issued the U.S. Senate held a hearing on whether federal money should fund embryonic stem-cell research.
“The Senate should not be misled on this important issue,” said Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.
“Most Americans do not support federally funded research that requires destroying human embryos,” he said in a statement. “They want their tax dollars used for stem-cell research that is ethically sound as well as medically promising – the kind of research that has attracted the interest and commitment of more and more stem-cell experts in recent years.”
The new poll also shows continued overwhelming opposition to human cloning, whether to provide children for infertile couples – which 83 percent against — or to produce embryos that would be destroyed in medical research which 76 percent were against.
A comparison with three identical polls conducted by International Communications Research from 2004 to 2006 shows a consistent level of concern about the issue.
For this latest poll, respondents were contacted by phone where a number was available, or by mail and asked to complete the survey by calling a toll-free number. The margin of error was plus or minus3.07 percentage points.
In late August, U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth issued a preliminary injunction which temporarily stopped federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research. In the 15-page ruling he said the research violated a 1996 law banning the use of taxpayer money to derive stem cells from embryos. An appeals court has since temporarily stayed that order until it can hear full arguments starting in mid-September.
According to The Associated Press, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, head of the Senate Appropriations health subcommittee, told those at the hearing: “We’ve come too far to give up now.”
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., co-author of the 1996 law prohibiting the use of federal funds in embryonic stem-cell research, called for adult stem cells to be used for research to avoid the “ethical challenges” associated with embryonic cells.