Poll: 57 percent of informed Americans oppose federal funds for embryo-destroying research

Richard Doerflinger, Associate Director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.
Richard Doerflinger, Associate Director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.


Almost half of Americans oppose federal funding of stem cell research which involves destroying human embryos, a new survey reports. Their opposition increases when they are informed of other options, and comparison with previous polls shows a “consistent level of moral concern” on the issue, the survey’s sponsor says.

On Aug. 23 U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that the U.S. government’s funding policy for human embryonic stem cell research (hESCR) violated the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which prohibits funding for research that destroys human embryos. The judge barred the funding, but his injunction was overturned on Sept. 9.

The U.S. Senate is preparing to hold hearings on the issue while legislators such as Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) have proposed ways to secure the funding.

Seeking public opinion on the issue, International Communications Research (ICR) surveyed 1,006 adults from Sept. 8-14. Its survey claims a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points and was commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB)  Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.

The USCCB reports that the survey initially found that about 47 percent of Americans oppose federal funding of human embryo-destroying stem cell research. About 38 percent support such funding.

The pollster then told respondents that stem cells can be obtained from adults, human placentas and other sources which do not harm the donor. They were also told that scientists disagree about whether stem cells from embryos or stem cells from other sources may be most successful in treating diseases.

According to the USCCB, 57 percent of adult respondents then favored funding only research which does not harm the donor, while only 21 percent favored funding all stem cell research, including research that involves killing embryonic human beings.

By comparison, a Rasmussen Reports poll published Aug. 27 found 57 percent of likely voters did not favor federal funding for hESCR and 33 percent favored taxpayer funding for the research.

“The Senate should not be misled on this important issue,” commented Richard M. Doerflinger, Associate Director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.

“Most Americans do not support federally funded research that requires destroying human embryos. 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 ICR survey found that 83 percent of respondents opposed human cloning to provide children for infertile couples while 76 percent opposed cloning to produce embryos that would be destroyed in medical research.

Previous identical surveys found that approval of federally funded hESCR has declined from a high of 43 percent in August 2004.

“When informed of their options, most Americans consistently support funding only stem cell research that does not require destroying embryos,” the USCCB commented in a press release.

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