Wednesday, December 22, 2004

VCU Survey Shows US Very Positive About Benefits of Genetics, Medicine and Science

Nation Favors Stem Cell Research; Concerns and Opposition More Common Among the Religious


Fascinating results of a September survey. For instance:

"Overall, would you say the benefits of conducting genetic research outweigh the risks or do the risks outweigh the benefits?"

58% Benefits outweigh risks
27% Risks outweigh benefits
11% Don’t know
4% No answer

Other findings:

- the more educated, and the more informed people are about medicine, science and genetics, the more positive they are about medicine, science and genetics' benefits, including repro cloning

- the religious (who we know tend to be less educated) are systematically both less informed and less positive about science, medicine and genetics

- There is very little support for legal repro cloning, but the places where opposition is weakest is among men (20% support compared to 7% among women) and the secular (31% support compared to 5% among the very religious)

- There is much higher support for cloning "if only used for medical research": support among men for "research cloning" is 47% compared to 37% among women, and 65% among the secular compared to 34% among the very religious

See complete Survey report
Excerpts from Executive Summary of 2004 VCU Life Sciences Survey

Increasing Opposition to Cloning, but Greater Support for Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Americans are increasingly opposed to human cloning, even under limited conditions, but a slight majority of them now favor embryonic stem cell research, according to a new nationwide survey conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University. Americans continue to see clear benefits to society from new developments in science and medicine, but at the same time they are concerned about the privacy of their health information. The VCU Life Sciences Survey was conducted by telephone with 1004 adults nationwide, September 7-17, 2004. The margin of error for the poll is plus or minus 3 percentage points. This is the fourth annual VCU Life Sciences Survey conducted for VCU Life Sciences by the VCU Center for Public Policy.

Clear Benefits of Science to Society with Some Ambivalence

§ Americans are largely in agreement that science and technology have helped make society better. Ninety percent report that developments in science have helped to make society better and 88 percent say this about new technology as well. While Americans strongly endorse the societal benefits of science, they also express ambivalence about the role of science in society. About six in ten (61 percent) agree that scientific research doesn’t pay enough attention to the moral values of society and 51 percent say that scientific research has created as many problems for society as solutions. These results are consistent with results from three previous VCU Life Sciences Surveys.

Limited Knowledge of Human Genome Project, but Faith in the Future of Genetic Research

Most Americans—68 percent—have not seen, heard, or read anything about the U.S. Human Genome Project, but a large majority—83 percent—believe that genetic research will yield major advances in the treatment of diseases during the next fifteen years. Fifty-eight percent believe that the benefits of genetic research outweigh the risks, while only 27 percent believe the risks outweigh the benefits. These results are also related to education levels.

Concerns about Privacy Regarding Health Information and Results of Genetic Testing

Three-fourths—76 percent—are either very concerned or somewhat concerned about their ability to keep health and medical information private, while 78 percent are very concerned or somewhat concerned about their ability to keep results of their genetic testing private. Americans are also concerned about the decisions that employers and insurance companies will make if they have access to genetic testing results.

High Interest in Scientific and Medical Discoveries

Better than four in ten Americans say they have “a lot” of interest in new scientific (42 percent), and new medical (46 percent) discoveries. However, only 10 percent of Americans believe they are very informed about new scientific discoveries and only 9 percent feel they are well informed about new medical discoveries.