While the moral status of human embryos has been the centerpiece of the political debate about ESC research, often articulated as an all-or-nothing proposition that is fully predictive of all of an individual's other views on embryonic stem cell research, the public's views about the moral status of embryos and the relationship of those views to ESC research policy preferences has not been fully explored. The survey showed that nearly the same number of Americans believe that an embryo in a Petri dish has no or low moral status (30 percent) or maximum moral status (28 percent). The remainder (42 percent) accord embryos some intermediate moral status.
A third of those who believe an embryo in a Petri dish has maximum moral status nonetheless approve of ESC research. Similarly, a third support ESC research policies more permissive than the current policy and which involve funding for research using new ESCs.
In a parallel fashion, 17 percent of those who accord an embryo in a Petri dish no or low moral status nevertheless disapprove of ESC research and support the current ESC policy or an all-out ban (22 percent). Thus, even for a sizeable number of respondents who fall at the polar ends of the moral status continuum, the commonly held expectation that they will support the corresponding policy extreme does not hold true.
Contact: Rick Borchelt
Genetics & Public Policy Center, Johns Hopkins University