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Public Opinion on Stem Cell Research

by Ruy Teixeira

One area where American public opinion does not appear to be very stable is the public’s view of stem cell research. Here there is clear evidence of a shift toward more support for this kind of research. The most recent evidence of this shift comes from the annual Life Sciences Survey, conducted by the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Center for Public Policy. The 2005 survey finds 58 percent in favor of “medical research that uses stem cells from human embryos”, compared to 32 percent who oppose such research. Since the 2002 survey, which registered 51-33 opposition to stem cell research, support has climbed, and opposition dropped, in every year’s survey.

The poll finds little evidence, however, of change in public attitudes toward use of cloning technology. Public support for cloning per se is 15 percent, about where it has been for the last five years. Public support for use of cloning technology if it is only applied to medical research is substantially higher–43 percent–but that figure also appears to be stable and not moving at this point toward becoming a majority view.