Public backing for stem cell research is neither a Republican nor Democratic issue and, as such, should not be turned into a political football during the 2004 elections, according to Civil Society Institute (CSI) President Pam Solo.
She cautioned that any politicizing of stem cell research ignores the fact that there is deep, bipartisan support for this avenue to explore possible new medical advances.
On June 11, 2004, the nonprofit and nonpartisan Results For America (a project of CSI) released a national opinion survey showing that, by a decisive margin of 74-21 percent, the vast majority of Americans support former First Lady Nancy Reagan’s call for the Bush White House to lift restrictions on stem cell research in order to look for possible treatments for the Alzheimer’s disease that afflicted former President Ronald Reagan prior to his recent death, as well as the other grave illnesses – including diabetes, Parkinson’s, heart disease and multiple sclerosis.
Solo said: “The death of Ronald Reagan altered the course of the national dialogue about stem cell research. When almost three out of four Americans say that they now are more likely to support stem cell research, what you are witnessing is a fundamental shift in the way that average Americans think about this issue. It would be a shame and a potentially devastating setback for the progress made in support for stem cell research if it becomes some sort of litmus test for political parties during the 2004 elections.”
At the time of the survey release, Opinion Research Corporation (ORC) Senior Research Manager Wayne Russum said: “What you see here is really about as close to bipartisan and panreligious agreement as you can get in American today on any topic.”
Other key findings from the June 2004 ORC survey conducted on behalf of Results For America included:
- Overall support for stem cell research is continuing its steady pattern of growth. When asked for their initial views with no prompting of medical research that “uses stem cells from human embryos,” Americans supported it by a margin of 60 percent-26 percent. This reflects major growth in support from an earlier 2001 survey that asked the same question and found a support level of 48-43 percent.
- Support for stem cell research is rapidly approaching bipartisan status. The initial question posed about "embryonic stem cell research" found strong majority support among liberals (75 percent) and moderates (67 percent), with conservatives (47 percent) hovering just under the majority level. When the potential benefits of stem cell research were explained in a separate question to those polled, the overall support level rose to 72 percent-23 percent, including backing from moderates at 81 percent and conservatives at 60 percent.
- Nearly three in four Americans back expanded federal support for stem cell research. A strong 74 percent of those polled expressed their backing for more resources for stem cell research, including 80 percent of moderates and 62 percent of conservatives. Moderates lined up for additional stem cell research by a margin of 80 percent-17 percent, while conservatives supported the proposition by a margin of 62 percent-32 percent.
In August 2001, the Bush administration imposed a major new restriction on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. The restriction meant that research on stem cell lines created before August 2001 could receive funding, but prohibited support for research on stem cell lines developed after that date.
Full survey findings are available online at http://www.ResultsForAmerica.org.