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A survey released today by the Results for America project of the nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute reveals that almost 75 percent of Americans support former First Lady Nancy Reagan’s call for the Bush White House to lift restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

Conducted by Opinion Research Corporation, the survey (PDF of full results) is the first reading of public attitudes about stem cell research to be taken since the death of President Reagan of Alzheimer’s, one of many diseases that researchers hope might be helped by embryonic stem cells. The poll also found that 72 percent of Americans say they are more likely to support stem cell research since Reagan’s death, including 76 percent of moderates, 64 percent of conservatives, and 62 percent of fundamentalist or evangelical Christians–groups that comprise Bush’s purported base.

The new survey follows on the heels of President Bush’s announcement yesterday that he would not reconsider his restrictive policy on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, despite bipartisan calls to do so from both the House and Senate and an outpouring of support for the research after President Reagan’s death. Many observers have commented that this policy will slow stem cell research initially, but in the long run, its main effect will be to open large gaps between American science and the rest of the world, as other countries pursue more permissive policies (including top-notch government supported stem cell efforts in Great Britain, South Korea, and Australia). Eventually treatments derived from such research will make their way to the U.S., but such politically motivated science policies are likely to leave a lasting mark on the credibility of Amercian science.

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