Comparing Stem Cell Poll Questions

Filed in Politics, Science, Social IssuesTags: Clone The Truth, Cloning, Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

Anne Leonard of the Stem Cell Research Blog compares stem cell poll questions, and their divergent results.

The first poll question, from the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR), which polled 72% strongly/somewhat in favor:

Embryonic stem cells are special cells which can develop into every type of cell in the human body. The stem cells are extracted from embryonic cells produced in fertility clinics and then frozen days after fertilization. If a couple decides the fertilized eggs are no longer needed, they can choose to donate the embryos for research or the clinic will throw the embryos away. Scientists have had success in initial research with embryonic stem cells and believe that they can be developed into cures for diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s, heart disease, juvenile diabetes, and spinal cord injuries. Having heard this description, do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose medical research that uses stem cells from human embryos?

The second poll question, from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which polled 48% opposed:

Stem cells are the basic cells from which all of a person's tissues and organs develop. Congress is considering the question of federal funding for experiments using stem cells from human embryos. The live embryos would be destroyed in their first week of development to obtain these cells. Do you support or oppose using your federal tax dollars for such experiments?

She then, after comparing the two poll questions, comes to the following conclusion:

I find the CAMR question better designed (despite its use of “success”) and more objective than the Bishops’ question, which has a lot of ambiguity in it. Maybe I am reading with my own biases and knowledge—but I think providing information about an issue yields a better question than vague and unspecific language.

Huh? The Bishops' question is more "vague" and has more "ambiguity" than the CAMR question? Let's compare, shally we?

Ambiguous:

The stem cells are extracted from embryonic cells produced in fertility clinics and then frozen days after fertilization.

Stem cells are not extracted from "embryonic cells", they are extracted from embryos (destroying them in the process).

Not Ambiguous:

The live embryos would be destroyed in their first week of development to obtain these cells.

Ambiguous:

Scientists have had success in initial research with embryonic stem cells and believe that they can be developed into cures for diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s, heart disease, juvenile diabetes, and spinal cord injuries.

Embryonic stem cell (ESC) research has yielded no success whatsoever in treating any human injury, illness, or condition.

Not Ambiguous:

Congress is considering the question of federal funding for experiments using stem cells from human embryos.

So, exactly, which poll question is more vague and ambiguous?

More interestingly, and which the post doesn't even address, is this follow-up question in the Bishops' poll, which polled 81% against:

Should scientists be allowed to use human cloning to create a supply of human embryos to be destroyed in medical research?

This question is actually better in comparison to the CAMR question, since the two are more comparable. The entire IVF embryo question is really a red herring, since ESR research proponents prefer "fresh" embryos, and consider frozen embryos to be inferior. Thus, ESR research will come primarily from SCNT-cloned embryos, against which this poll question shows strong opposition.