Today marks the ten year anniversary of the birth of the cloned sheep Dolly, and the anniversary comes as Congress debates various bills impacting funding for embryonic stem cell research (NPR files two reports today, here and here.)
Despite ten years of debate over therapeutic and reproductive cloning, Congress has yet to pass legislation providing clear guidelines for research. According to polls, the public still has reservations about animal cloning, and remains unclear about the differences between reproductive and therapeutic cloning. Though answers are susceptible to question wording, according to the best independent polling, less than a majority of Americans support therapeutic cloning.
In 2004, I published the following study in Public Opinion Quarterly reviewing the historically available polling data on stem cell research and various aspects of cloning. (Given the interest in the topic, the paper remains the 2nd most frequently read article at the journal. If you don't have university access, contact me for a copy.)
Since publishing the article, I have reviewed the subsequent shifts in public opinion on stem cell research and cloning in the following Web columns for Skeptical Inquirer Online (Go here and here.) The most significant shift in public opinion since 2004 has been the growing partisan divide in views about embryonic stem cell research, a divide created in part by the efforts of the Kerry campaign in 2004 to draw a distinction between the GOP and Dems on the topic. (Remember, the public, as "cognitive misers" rely heavily on short-cuts such as partisanship to make up their minds about complex policy topics. Unfortunately, these kinds of partisan campaign messages then lead the public to view a science issue as a partisan one, and you see these kinds of big gaps in public opinion emerge, as is the case in stem cell research and in climate change....more on this latter topic soon at this blog.)
Read on for more details on the poll results relative to animal and human cloning.....
GALLUP ON ANIMAL CLONING
(Next, I'm going to read you a list of issues. Regardless of whether or not you think it should be legal, for each one, please tell me whether you personally believe that in general it is morally acceptable or morally wrong.) How about...cloning animals?
May 2006 (May 2005)
Morally acceptable 29% (35%)
Morally wrong 65% (61%)
Depends on situation (Vol.) 2% (1%)
Not a moral issue (Vol.) 1%
No opinion 3% (3%)
VCU LIFE SCIENCES SURVEY ON THERAPEUTIC CLONING
There are several different terms used when it comes to human cloning technology. How clear are you, personally, on the difference between human reproductive cloning and human therapeutic cloning--Very clear, somewhat clear, not very clear, or not at all clear?
SEPT. 2005 (2004)
Very clear 10% (8%)
Somewhat clear 23% (26%)
Not very clear 31% (34%)
Not at all clear 36% (30%)
No answer 1%
Don't know (1%)
Do you favor or oppose using human cloning technology if it is used only to help medical research develop new treatments for disease--do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose this?
SEPT. 2005 (2004)