Stem Cell Research: The President vs. Public Opinion

Jun 20, 2007 5:13pm

President Bush’s latest veto of stem-cell research legislation comes at a time when public support for such research is at an all-time high.

Most American long have backed stem-cell research – 58 percent or more in ABC News/Washington Post polls since 2001. That's peaked, at 68 percent support, in the latest ABC/Post poll to measure views on the issue, in April.

Sixty percent, moreover, favor loosening the current restrictions on federal funding for this research, as the legislation Bush has rejected would have done. And that again has been consistent: An identical 60 percent supported federal funding for stem-cell research in an ABC./Post poll conducted when the issue first arose six years ago.

There are sharp partisan differences. While 80 percent of Democrats and 70 percent of independents support stem-cell research overall, that falls to 49 percent of Republicans. Similarly, more than three-quarters of liberals and moderates alike support stem-cell research, compared with 47 percent of conservatives.

When it comes to federal funding, Republicans and conservatives are even less supportive – majorities, 55 and 56 percent respectively, oppose it. In that sense, Bush, in vetoing the legislation, does reflect the majority view among his base supporters.

Perhaps surprisingly, religious belief creates somewhat less of a split: Even among evangelical white Protestants, 57 percent support stem-cell research, as do three-quarters of non-evangelical Protestants and Catholics alike. And 51 percent of evangelical white Protestants support federal funding for this research, with 45 percent opposed.

With the war in Iraq still driving public discontent, Bush’s veto of another stem-cell research bill is hardly likely to get him into much deeper disapproval; after all, the public knew his position on the issue when he won re-election in 2004. But for a long-beleaguered president, holding tightly to a position on stem-cell research that runs counter to steady public preferences can hardly help.

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