Last week, as the 2012 election season heated up, three researchers reported on American attitudes toward federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. Their conclusion: If American politicians listen to majority opinion, federal funding for stem cell funding is more secure than if they heed the party lines, in which case the field may be in for more turmoil.
Robert J. Blendon, Minah Kang Kim and John M. Benson, all affiliated with the Harvard School of Public Health, wrote the perspective article, which was published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine. The piece described a polling review project sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Funding for embryonic stem cell research -- which scientists hope one day will contribute to cures for ailments including spinal cord injuries, Parkinson's disease and diabetes -- has been a political flashpoint for more than a decade. In 2001, former President George W. Bush froze federal funding on research that would require destroying embryos to create new stem cell lines. In 2009, President Barack Obama lifted the restrictions, and federal courts upheld his action. But the new campaign "has once again raised uncertainty about such funding," the coauthors wrote.
Examining data from eight opinion polls from the last two years, the team looked at overall public opinion on federal funding for stem cell research, breaking out Americans' views by political party.