The Corner

The Poor Quality of Stem-Cell Polling

It would be hard enough to get an accurate read of public opinion on policy questions involving stem cells if the only difficulty were that most people don’t know much about the subject. But the fact that pollsters have almost invariably worded the questions badly has not made it any easier. Over at Polling Report, the latest numbers cited are from a Gallup poll taken in February. The question is whether the current “very limited funding” should be kept or expanded “to allow more stem-cell research.” Your typical respondent is going to think that the question concerns whether to spend less or more money.

Next up is a Time poll. It stacks the deck in three ways. It highlights the potential benefits of the research in a misleading way — for example, it claims that stem cells could be used to “treat or cure” Alzheimer’s disease, something actual researchers, even those supportive of the research, have long considered a fairy tale. It says that the human embryos used in the research have been “discarded from fertility clinics.” And it doesn’t mention that the research destroys the embryos.

And on and on it goes down the page. I’m sure I wouldn’t be happy about the news contained in an accurate, well-worded poll, but I’d still like to see one.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.