May 23, 2005

More See Benefits of Stem Cell Research

Opinions Divide Along Religious Lines

Coming on the heels of last week’s announcement that South Korean scientists had cloned a human embryo, the U.S. House is nearing a vote on expanding federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. President Bush has threatened to veto the legislation if it passes. Surveys last year by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found growing public interest in the issue, with majorities believing that the potential benefits of embryonic stem cell research outweigh the destruction of human embryos involved in this research.

In a poll of 2,000 adults conducted December 1-15, 2004 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, nearly half of the public (47%) said it had heard a lot about the issue, up from 42% in August and 27% in March 2002. A clear majority of those polled (56%) said that it was more important to conduct stem cell research that might result in new medical cures than to avoid the loss the potential life of human embryos involved in this research (32%).

As in August of last year, people who say they have heard a lot about the issue are more supportive of stem cell research than those who are paying less attention. Among those who say they have heard a lot about the issue, 65% support stem cell research.

Opposition to stem cell research is greatest among white evangelical Protestants, 58% of whom believe that protecting potential life of embryos is more important. But mainline Protestants are strongly in favor of the research, with 69% believing that stem cell research’s benefits outweigh the costs. And despite Vatican objections to embryonic stem cell research, a solid majority of Catholics (63%) support such research.

Politically, the stem cell issue could prove beneficial for the Democratic Party. Fully two-thirds of Democrats (68%) favor stem cell research, but so too do 58% of independents. By contrast, Republicans are divided on the issue, with 45% favoring the research and 45% believing that it is more important to protect the potential life of embryos.

Similarly, self-described conservatives are divided (44% in favor, 45% against), while majorities of moderates and liberals are in favor.

There are modest generational differences in opinion on the issue. Younger people are more supportive of stem cell research than older people, with 61% of those age 18-29 favoring the research compared with just 50% among those 65 and older. But opposition is not higher among the oldest cohort; instead, older people are more likely to say they do not have an opinion on the issue.

About the Survey

Results for this survey are based on telephone interviews conducted under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International among a nationwide sample of 2,000 adults, 18 years of age or older, from December 1-16, 2004. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

Views on Stem Cell Research

March 2002 December 2004
More important to… More important to…
Conduct research Not destroy embryos DK/Ref Conduct research Not destroy embryos DK/Ref Change in conduct research
Total 43 38 19=100 56 32 12=100 +13
Sex
Male 47 35 18 58 31 11 +11
Female 39 41 20 55 33 12 +16
Race
White 44 38 18 58 32 10 +14
Non-white 36 40 24 51 32 17 +15
Black 31 43 26 48 33 19 +17
Hispanic* 43 45 12 54 34 12 +11
Race and Sex
White Men 49 35 16 59 32 9 +10
White Women 40 41 19 57 32 11 +17
Age
Under 30 46 40 14 61 32 7 +15
30-49 46 38 16 58 31 11 +12
50-64 40 40 20 55 34 11 +15
65+ 34 36 30 50 32 18 +16
Sex and Age
Men under 50 49 36 15 60 30 10 +11
Women under 50 43 42 15 58 32 10 +15
Men 50+ 43 35 22 55 32 13 +12
Women 50+ 33 40 27 51 34 15 +18
Education
College Grad. 55 32 13 65 27 8 +10
Some College 46 38 16 56 32 12 +10
High School Grad. 34 44 22 54 34 12 +20
< H.S. Grad. 36 37 27 46 37 17 +10
Family Income
$75,000+ 53 34 13 65 26 9 +12
$50,000-$74,999 53 37 10 59 34 7 +6
$30,000-$49,999 43 40 17 55 36 9 +12
$20,000-$29,999 40 43 17 53 34 13 +13
<$20,000 33 44 23 52 36 12 +19
Region
East 50 32 18 66 23 11 +16
Midwest 45 40 15 51 37 12 +6
Soutd 35 45 20 50 38 12 +15
West 46 32 22 64 25 11 +18
Religious Affiliation
Total White Protestant 38 43 19 52 38 10 +14
- Evangelical 26 55 19 33 58 9 +7
- Non-Evangelical 51 29 20 69 19 12 +18
White Catdolic 43 39 18 63 28 9 +20
Secular 66 17 17 70 16 14 +4
Community Size
Large City 45 35 20
Suburb 49 38 13
Small City/Town 42 36 22
Rural Area 35 47 18
Party ID
Republican 38 47 15 45 45 10 7
Democrat 45 37 18 68 22 10 23
Independent 49 33 18 58 30 12 9
Party and Ideology
Conservative Republican 32 54 14 40 51 9 8
Moderate/Liberal Rep. 48 38 14 55 35 10 7
Conservative/Mod. Dem. 43 39 18 60 30 10 17
Liberal Democrat 55 31 14 85 9 6 30
Bush Approval
Approve 46 42 12
Disapprove 69 21 10
Attend Religious Services
Weekly + 28 52 19 38 50 12 10
Montdly or Less 49 33 19 67 22 11 18
Seldom/Never 58 24 18 72 18 10 14
Labor Union
Union Household 49 35 16 54 34 12 5
Non-Union Household 42 39 19 57 32 11 15