Public Opinion, Here and Abroad

Posted by Jesse Reynolds December 22, 2008
Biopolitical Times

In the last few days, two interesting public opinion polls were released. Here in the United States, the latest annual edition [PDF] of the Virginia Commonwealth University Life Science Survey yielded no surprises, as the results for relevant questions held steady: Embryonic stem cell research (57% in support, 36% opposed), cloning-based stem cell research (52% in support, 45% opposed), human cloning (17% in support, 78% opposed). In response to, "How clear are you, personally, on the difference between human reproductive cloning and human therapeutic cloning?," eight percent were very clear, 26% somewhat clear, 31% not very clear, and 33% not at all clear.

But this chart (below, click for full version) caught my eye the most. It captures the impacts of politics on opinions of a scientific research procedure. A few years ago, party affiliation had little impact on one's likely view of human embryonic stem cell research. But beginning around 2004, the year of California's Proposition 71 and exaggerated statements in the Presidential race, support among Democrats (and to a lesser extent, independents) crept upward and that of Republicans inched downwards.

Meanwhile, a research foundation affiliated with the large Spanish financial services firm BBVA issued its second study of public opinion on assisted reproductive technologies [PDF] in fifteen industrialized countries. For most questions, respondents were asked to rate the acceptability of various technological applications on a scale of 0 to 10. While there was significant variance among the countries, I was struck more by the consistency. For example, the acceptability of IVF for infertile couples ranged from 6.0 to 8.7, while the range for its use for sex selection was 0.9 to 3.5.

Previously on Biopolitical Times: