Biased Embryonic Stem Cell Research Polls Manipulate Public Opinion

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 20, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Biased Embryonic Stem Cell Research Polls Manipulate Public Opinion Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
September 20, 2004 Note: Steven Ertelt is the editor and CEO of

They’re at it again. Another so-called survey of public opinion tells us that a strong majority of Americans support the destruction of human embryos so scientists can use their stem cells in research.

The only problem is that the poll is based on promises of cures that leading researchers say will likely never materialize.

The latest poll is commissioned by The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and Zogby International.

According to their nationwide survey, some 72 percent of those polled said they support using "leftover" human embryos for to conduct research into diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or juvenile diabetes.

This isn’t the first time poll takers have set out to manipulate public opinion by using pseudo-science to generate support for embryonic stem cell research.

In August, the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania showed 64 percent of Americans backing the use of federal funds for the unproven research.

The question asked whether respondents would "favor or oppose federal funding of research on diseases like Alzheimer’s using stem cells taken from human embryos."

But, leading researchers say embryonic stem cells are unlikely to provide any cures for Alzheimer’s because of the complex nature of the debilitating disease.

According to Steve Stice, a stem cell researcher at the University of Georgia, Alzheimer’s is a "global" disease that affects numerous kinds of cells. That makes it much less likely that stem cell research will find a cure for the disease.

Marilyn Albert, a Johns Hopkins University researcher who chairs the Medical and Scientific Advisory Council of the Alzheimer’s Association, agrees. She says fellow Alzheimer’s researchers know that other treatments will provide patients much more hope than relying on embryonic stem cells for a cure.

"I just think everybody feels there are higher priorities for seeking effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and for identifying preventive strategies," she told the Associated Press in June.

When told the truth about the destruction of human life that accompanies embryonic stem cell research, Americans overwhelmingly prefer for their taxpayer dollars to support the use of adult stem cells.

An August poll conducted by Wilson Research Strategies, shows 53 percent of respondents opposed "using tax dollars to pay for the kind of stem cell research that requires the killing of human embryos," while only 38 percent support it.

The new poll also confirmed that a strong majority of Americans (74 to 20 percent) prefer their tax dollars to be used for alternative research using adult stem cells.

So why the focus on embryonic stem cells and polls that put into the heads of respondents the false hope that cures for their family from the destructive research are right around the corner?

The main reason is money.

The University of Texas health center that commissioned the Zogby Poll received an anonymous $25 million donation in March to set up a new embryonic stem cell research center. The gift was given by a patient of Dr. James Willerson, president of the health center.

With construction of the center, the University of Texas will need an infusion of funds year after year to operate it, hire staff, and conduct research. Like other universities and companies looking into embryonic stem cells, UT will rely on money from American taxpayers to subsidize its research.

Research laboratories can only be helped by a galvanized public clamoring for taxpayer-funding from state and federal agencies.

It’s time to drop the reliance on junk science and to start telling the truth to the American public.