Asked, for instance, whether adult or embryonic stem cell research had yielded any therapeutic results, only 23% of respondents answered correctly that, to date, only adult stem cells have resulted in treatments for disease.
More respondents wrongly believed that embryonic stem cells had already yielded therapies, and many wrongly believed that neither adult nor embryonic stem cells had done so.
We had no pretensions of revealing where public opinion is.
That opinion is thoroughly undefined, and those politicians who seek to hang their cause on strong public attitudes are fooling themselves, or trying to fool the rest of us.
Switching topics now, as you may know, in vitro fertilization, or IVF, is the process of creating human embryos in a laboratory, by combining a sperm and an egg.
The process results in a human embryo which can then be implanted in a mother’s womb to develop to birth, frozen for later transfer to a mother, or discarded or used for research purposes (and then destroyed).One form of stem cell research is conducted on embryonic stem cells — or those extracted from human embryos, which are destroyed in the process.There is also a different type of stem cell that can be found in adults, and obtained without any harm or discomfort to the donor.The survey involved 1,003 American adults, and has a margin of error of /- 3.1%. asily the most unusual and outstanding characteristic of public views on the stem cell and embryo research issues is a self-reported lack of familiarity with the facts.In other arenas of policy and politics, even when people don’t know much about a prominent public subject they tend not to perceive or report their own ignorance.But asked, for instance, whether they were familiar with stem cell research, only 17% of the respondents said they were very familiar.This relative absence of knowledge about even the most prominent of the embryo-research issues is made emphatically clearer in the responses to particular questions of fact.“By the latest poll,” Senator Dianne Feinstein (D.-Cal.) told her colleagues on the Senate floor in 2006, “72 percent of Americans support stem cell research.” Her colleague Senator Sam Brownback (R.-Kans.), meanwhile, argued in the same debate that a large majority of Americans oppose all human cloning.The Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research argues that seven in ten Americans want to eliminate restrictions on public funding of embryonic stem cell research, while the Conference of Catholic Bishops points to a poll showing six in ten oppose such funding altogether.In all of these scenarios, the American public is taken to be moved by clear and strong opinions on the vexed questions of stem cell research, human cloning, and related practices just past the horizon.But attempts to actually study these views, and to pin down the meaning of the large majorities cited by the various parties to the political arguments, have been vanishingly rare.