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ATTITUDES TOWARD CLONING

By Published on . 0

The issue first entered America's collective consciousness in 1997, with a sheep named Dolly. What began as a question about cloning animals quickly became a wider debate about the possibility, purpose and ethics of cloning humans. Last fall, the issue came to the forefront again when Advanced Cell Technology, a Massachusetts-based research firm, announced that it had cloned the first human embryo.

Despite the gee-whiz appeal of the science, Americans overwhelmingly disapprove of cloning and want stringent government regulations and monitoring. Survey results on the subject are remarkably consistent. In a February 2001 Time/CNN/Yankelovich poll, 67 percent of Americans said cloning animals, such as sheep, is a bad idea and 90 percent thought the same of human cloning. Similarly, a May 2001 poll by the Gallup Organization found that 64 percent of Americans want to ban animal cloning and 89 percent want to prohibit the cloning of human beings.

At least 4 in 10 Americans advocate a total research ban on cloning and a majority (52 percent) say the government should at least closely regulate all such research in the United States, according to a July 2001 Zogby poll. This was largely unchanged from two years before, when a 1999 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found Americans split on the issue: 48 percent opposed banning medical research on human cloning while 47 percent favored a ban. Americans seem particularly wary of potential uses of cloning technology. Nearly 9 in 10 Americans oppose allowing parents to have twin children at a later date through cloning or allowing parents who have lost a child create a clone of that child, according to a Febuary 2000 Time/CNN Yankelovich Poll. Even those who support the idea of cloning seem to view cloning's application warily.

DOLLY'S LEGACY

Engineered by European scientists, Dolly was not greeted stateside with wide praise. Among the 7 in 10 Americans who said cloning animals, such as sheep, was a bad idea (as indicated in a 1997 Yankelovich poll), certain demographic differences emerge. Supporters of cloning tend to be non-religious, have higher levels of education and higher household incomes than non supporters. A slight majority of Americans with postgraduate education (56 percent) and those earning $75,000 or more (52 percent) say that animal cloning should be permitted, according to a May 2001 poll by Gallup. The gender gap isn't nearly as wide. Although they are more open to the prospect than women, a small number of men are in favor of animal cloning, with 37 percent calling it a good idea.

People quickly made the leap to a more human debate. After Dolly's creation in 1997, 87 percent of Americans told CNN/USA Today/Gallup that if humans were cloned it would be bad for humanity and 88 percent declared human cloning to be morally wrong.

ANIMAL ANTECEDENTS

Men are more likely than women to support animal cloning.

In general, do you think it is a good idea or bad idea to clone animals such as sheep?

MEN WOMEN TOTAL
“It's a good idea� 37% 20% 28%
Source: Yankelovich, 2/97

Which do you think is likely — that the new cloning will help solve some of the problems that the world faces, or that cloning will create more problems than it solves?

MEN WOMEN TOTAL
“It will solve problems� 31% 17% 24%
Source: Yankelovich, 2/97

Scientists have cloned animals, using basic genetic material from one animal to produce an offspring with the exact same genetic makeup. Supporters say cloning animals can lead to advances in medicine and agriculture. Opponents say cloning animals is morally wrong. Do you think it should be legal or illegal to clone animals in the United States?

LEGAL ILLEGAL NO OPINION
37% 59% 4%
Source: ABC News/Beliefnet Poll, 8/01

Scientists say it's also possible to clone humans, using basic genetic material from one person to produce a child with the exact same genetic makeup. Do you think it should be legal or illegal to clone humans in the United States?

LEGAL ILLEGAL NO OPINION
11% 87% 2%
Source: ABC News/Beliefnet Poll, 8/01

WHY CLONE?

In July 2001, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to ban all human cloning, whether for medical research or human reproduction. In December, the Senate's effort to pass a six-month moratorium on human embryo cloning failed. Most Americans seem to agree with measures to curb cloning. The majority find no justifiable reason to allow or encourage human cloning. According to a February 2001 Time/CNN/Yankelovich poll, the most permissible goal for such practices, to produce copies of humans whose vital organs can be used to save the lives of others, is still supported by only 28 percent of the public. A mere 6 percent support the science fiction fantasy of cloning to create genetically superior human beings.

Americans are less opposed to human cloning when it stops short of producing the birth of a human being. Cloning in the name of medical research (sometimes called “therapeutic cloning�) is considered feasible by many. In a Gallup/CNN/USA Today poll taken in November 2001, a slight majority (54 percent) said they favor cloning that is not designed to specifically result in the birth of a human being, but to aid medical research that might lead to treatments for certain diseases. Four in 10 Americans still disapproved.

THE OPPOSITION

Most Americans oppose human cloning for religious reasons, though the religious and the nonreligious oppose it nearly equally. Disapproval on a religious basis is in line with the teachings of several major religious institutions and leaders. Following the November 2001 creation of a human embryo by Advanced Cell Technology, the Vatican issued a statement calling for “unequivocal condemnation� of this latest development in cloning.

Opposition to cloning extends across all generations. A study by Euro RSCG Worldwide, conducted July to August 2001, found that only 9 percent of Baby Boomers, 10 percent of Gen Xers and 11 percent of Echo Boomers favor human cloning. Globally, opposition is equally, uniformly strong. Asian/Pacific residents are slightly more in favor of human cloning, with 14 percent approving, while only 8 percent of Europeans, 9 percent of South Americans and 11 percent of North Americans are in favor.

Traditional demographic divides on moral issues don't seem to apply to human cloning. A July 2001 Zogby “Future Watch� poll shows that opposition transcends political affiliations. Ninety-four percent of Republicans, 92 percent of Independents and 87 percent of Democrats disapprove of human cloning. Age and education also have minimal impact on opinion: 82 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds and 89 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds disapprove, as do 92 percent of high school graduates and 89 percent of college grads. By contrast, 19 percent of those with a high school diploma or less support animal cloning, as do 14 percent of people earning under $20,000.

THE BOTTOM LINE

  • Americans overwhelmingly disapprove of both animal and human cloning. This opposition transcends most demographic categories, and extends worldwide.
  • People are most opposed to the use of cloning for the creation of new — possibly better — human beings. They are most reconciled to the idea of therapeutic cloning that results in new health remedies and lifesaving procedures.
  • The reasons most often cited for opposition are religious in nature. Americans also fear cloning will interfere with human individuality or be used for unspecified and potentially dangerous or immoral purposes.

WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOU

  • Scientific discovery is more positively received in the public eye when it's balanced with ethics and justifiable, even laudable, goals. The idea of “progressâ€? alone and technology for technology's sake can be seen as both frightening and overwhelming. Just as marketing messages often show technology balanced with environmental concerns, companies that work with areas of potentially controversial scientific research might want to incorporate messages about ethical considerations.
  • Consumers are more comfortable with certain end goals to various kinds of medical and scientific research than they are with others. And they are often more inclined to support such ends without worrying or knowing too much about the means. Emphasize the positive medical, environmental and life-promoting results of such processes, products and companies.
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