California Voters Evenly Split in Embryonic Stem Cell Research Poll

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 16, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Voters Evenly Split in Embryonic Stem Cell Research Poll Email this article
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by Maria Gallagher Staff Writer
August 16, 2004

Sacramento, CA ( — A new poll shows California voters are almost evenly split on a controversial ballot issue that would mandate taxpayer funding for unproven embryonic stem cell research.

The survey showed 45 percent of those 1,034 voters polled were planning to vote "yes" on the measure, while 42 percent were planning to vote "no." Thirteen percent of respondents were undecided. The poll has a margin of error of 4.5 percent.

The poll, conducted by Field Research Corp., indicates opposition to the proposal is strong, despite a heavily financed campaign to win support for the issue.

Proposition 71 would raise billions of taxpayer dollars for embryonic stem cell research, even though such research has shown little promise in combating diseases.

The poll results show that the measure is heavily favored by Democrats, supporters of Presidential candidate John Kerry, voters with college educations, and those under age 40.

In contrast, Republicans and supporters of President George W. Bush oppose the ballot issue by a two-to-one margin. Voters who do not have college degrees and senior citizens also oppose the measure in large numbers.

The poll results also show a gender gap, with women more likely to support Proposition 71 than men.

Field Poll analyst Mark DiCamillo told the San Francisco Chronicle that when an initial tracking poll shows a sharp divide on a ballot issue, it has "fairly low chances of passage."

The ballot proposal would authorize $3 billion in bonds to fund embryonic stem cell research, but would run up a tab of $6 billion in state costs.

As a result, while some oppose the measure on strictly ethical grounds, others oppose it based on the cost at a time when the California government is hurting financially.

Some voters might ask, "Can the state in its current financial crisis afford another (big) bond (issue)," DiCamillo told the Chronicle.

A spokeswoman for a group called the Center for Bioethics and Culture, which opposes the issue, was elated at the poll results.

"People ask, ‘Do you have any hope at all?’ Yes, we do! I’m encouraged. This is good news," the Center’s Jennifer Lahl told a reporter after hearing about the survey findings.

Still, supporters of the measure appear undaunted.

Fiona Hutton, a spokeswoman for the Yes on 71 campaign, told the California press that "given the state’s economic climate, this is a good starting point for our campaign. We know that Americans overwhelmingly support (embryonic) stem cell research and believe in its potential to cure some of the most debilitating diseases and injuries."

However, a number of scientists note that, to date, there has been little evidence to suggest that embryonic stem cell research can provide effective therapies. In contrast, adult stem cell research, which does not involve the killing of human embryos, has yielded promising results.

Proposition 71 is backed by a number of Hollywood movie moguls, venture capitalists, and a "disease lobby" representing organizations that lobby on behalf of patients afflicted with various diseases. The proposition’s supporters have raised more than $7 million from venture capitalists such as Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar.

The Field Poll calls Proposition 71 "perhaps the most controversial" of the eleven propositions slated to appear on the California ballot this election year.

Related web sites:
Proposition 71 Voters’ Guide –