The full survey is available at <>

 October 4, 2001 CONTACT:  Cary Funk
 Director of the Commonwealth Poll

 Americans Welcome Scientific Advancements with Caution
 Life Sciences Survey Conducted by the VCU Center for Public Policy

 RICHMOND, Va. — Americans are extremely supportive of the giant strides
 being made in science and technology but also are very concerned about the
 moral implications inherent in areas such as stem-cell research and genetic
 testing, according to a new nationwide survey conducted by Virginia
 Commonwealth University in Richmond.

 The VCU Life Sciences Survey was conducted with 1,122 adults nationwide.
 The margin of error for the poll is +/- 3 percent. Highlights of the survey
 found that:

 Scientific Progress and Moral Values
 An overwhelming majority of Americans (85 percent) believe that science and
 technology have made society better, but at the same time a majority (72
 percent) also believe that science doesn't pay enough attention to moral
 values. More religious Americans are especially likely to think that
 science doesn't pay enough attention to moral values.

 Americans are more confident about the capacity of science and medicine to
 solve problems associated with disease than they are about society's
 capacity to address many other problems. 83 percent are confident that
 genetic research will lead to major advances in the treatment of diseases
 during the next 15 years. 73 percent believe it is likely that mortality
 rates from cancer will be reduced by half in the next 15 years compared to
 only 20 percent who think the crime rate will be reduced by half and 31
 percent who said the number of deaths from truck and automobile accidents
 will be reduced by half.

 Stem Cell Research
 Medical research that uses stem cells from human embryos is favored by a 48
 to 43 percent plurality. There are clear divisions in viewpoint over stem
 cells depending on the importance of religious beliefs. 71 percent of those
 who say religion is not important to them favor stem cell research compared
 to 38 percent who say religion provides a great deal of guidance in their
 life. At the same time, the vast majority of Americans (78 percent) believe
 that ethical concerns over stem cell research are serious.

 The public is more likely to trust information on stem cell research from
 scientific researchers and medical ethicists than information that comes
 from other groups. 86 percent say they would trust information on stem cell
 research that comes from scientific and medical researchers and 81 percent
 would trust information from specialists in medical ethics. This compares
 with 58 percent who would trust information from family and friends on this
 issue, 54 percent from religious leaders, and 46 percent from the media.

 Genetic Testing and Discrimination
 A clear majority (77 percent) believe that genetic testing should be made
 easily available. Six in ten report they would get tested if it was easily
 available and even more (67 percent) would get their children tested if it
 was easily available.

 Large majorities believe that genetic testing results will lead to
 discrimination by health insurance companies and employers. 84 percent
 believe that health insurance companies will deny coverage and 69 percent
 believe that employers will deny people jobs because of genetic testing
 results. Americans are almost evenly split (by 46 to 43 percent) over
 whether it is even possible to prevent discrimination from genetic testing

 On the issue of which groups or individuals can protect people from the
 misuse of genetic information, large majorities express confidence in
 physicians, genetic counselors, and scientists. Just under half, 47
 percent, have confidence that the federal or state government can protect
 people from misuse of this information. Confidence in the media is
 strikingly lower than any other group asked about. Only 21 percent of
 Americans have confidence in the media to protect people from the misuse of
 this information.

 Trust and the News Media
 While a 45 percent plurality say they would turn first to the news media to
 learn more about stem cell research, few appear to trust the information
 provided by the media. Trust for the media on this issue was lower than
 that for all but one other group — the U.S. Congress. Similarly, fewer
 people expressed confidence in the media to protect people from the misuse
 of genetic information than did so for any of ten other groups.

 Religion, Catholics, and Science
 While the Roman Catholic leadership has been active in the debate against
 stem cell research, Catholics in America hold views quite similar to the
 public at large on stem cells. The same holds for opinion on abortion.
 More religious Americans depart sharply from other Americans on new
 developments in science and medicine. Those who are more religious are more
 likely to oppose stem cell research, are less likely to think the benefits
 of genetic research outweigh the risks and are more likely to believe that
 "science doesn't pay enough attention to moral values."

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