Public Release:  Widespread support for nonembryonic stem cell research, VCU Life Sciences Survey shows

But majority of Americans believes embryonic stem cell research still necessary

Virginia Commonwealth University

The VCU Life Sciences Survey is the first poll to reflect the discovery reported internationally in November that human skin cells can be used to create stem cells or their near equivalents. When asked about the implications of this development, more than six in 10, or 63 percent, say that both embryonic and non-embryonic stem cell research is still needed, 22 percent say this development means embryonic stem cell research is no longer necessary. Thirty-eight percent of Americans report hearing about this research.

Three-quarters of the U.S. public supports stem cell research that does not involve human embryos. Majorities of nearly all groups in society, including those with differing beliefs about abortion and religious commitment, favor non-embryonic stem cell research, according to the survey released Wednesday.

The findings are part of this year's nationwide survey conducted by VCU via telephone with 1,000 adults nationwide from Nov. 26, 2007, to Dec. 9, 2007. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points. The survey is conducted for VCU Life Sciences and the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences by the VCU Center for Public Policy.

Other survey findings:

  • Embryonic stem cell research. A majority (54 percent) of Americans strongly or somewhat favors embryonic stem cell research, a figure that has remained about the same since 2004. As in past surveys, opinion on embryonic stem cell research is strongly related to views on abortion, religious commitment and self-assessed knowledge about stem cell research. The partisan divide over embryonic stem cell research remains roughly the same since 2004.

  • Personal impact of genetic research. Roughly four in 10, or 38 percent, report having a disease or medical condition strongly related to genetic factors or having a family member with such a disease or condition. Among this group, 57 percent say that medical research on genes and genetics has a positive affect on their life, 38 percent say this research hasn't affected their lives and 3 percent say it has a negative affect.

  • Cloning and therapeutic cloning. Opinion about therapeutic cloning is evenly divided with 47 percent in favor and 47 percent opposed to using cloning technology for the development of new medical treatments. When cloning is not restricted to therapeutic purposes, about eight in 10, or 81 percent, oppose the use of cloning technology in humans. Opinion on both issues has been fairly stable since the first VCU Life Sciences Survey was conducted in 2001.

  • Animal research. Medical research has long involved testing on animals. About six in 10, or 62 percent of adults, favor the use of animals in medical research either strongly or somewhat, while 35 percent are opposed.

  • Morality and ethics in scientific decisions. A majority, 51 percent, of the public says that scientific decisions should be based primarily on an analysis of the risks and benefits involved rather than the moral and ethical issues involved (32 percent). At the same time, a majority, or 63 percent, agrees that scientific research doesn't pay enough attention to the moral values of society.

  • What's the government's role" Opinion about the government's role in regulating scientific research is mixed. A 46 percent plurality says that government regulation is necessary to protect the public interest, while 39 percent say government regulation does more harm than good. At the same time, 57 percent of Americans disagree with the idea that government rules will keep us safe from any risks linked to modern genetic science.

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The poll and its methodology are posted online at http://www.news.vcu.edu/doc/VCU-Life-Sci-2007-Report-embargoed.pdf.

About VCU and the VCU Medical Center: Virginia Commonwealth University is the largest university in Virginia and ranks among the top 100 universities in the country in sponsored research. Located on two downtown campuses in Richmond, VCU enrolls nearly 32,000 students in 205 certificate and degree programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-five of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU's 15 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University compose the VCU Medical Center, one of the nation's leading academic medical centers. For more, see www.vcu.edu.

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