We often hear that majorities support ESCR. And there is little doubt in my mind that that is true (for reasons we need not get into here). But supporting ESCR as a legal matter is not the same thing as wanting taxpayers to fund it. Indeed, the latest Rasmussen Poll finds that a solid majority oppose the federal government paying for ESCR in the wake of the court ruling enjoining the Obama funding policy. From the poll:
Only 33% of U.S. voters believe that taxpayer money should be spent on embryonic stem cell research, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Fifty-seven percent (57%) say funding for such research should be left to the private sector. While 55% of voters who identify themselves as pro-choice support government funding of stem cell research, 83% of pro-life voters are opposed.
This is a very American reaction that may accept something as legal, but which respects the deep and honestly held moral differences people in this country hold over a very controversial issue. Consider: ESCR is not the same issue as abortion–abortion legalization is about the autonomy rights of women, but in ESCR no woman is being forced to do anything with her body. And yet, until recently most polls showed majorities in support of abortion rights–as most also supported barring federal funding of abortion (the Hyde Amendment).
In any event, I don’t think this issue will cut one way or the other in November. The Dickey Amendment that bans federal funding of embryonic destructive research can’t be credibly used in a partisan fashion. Indeed, it–along with Hyde–is one of our most bipartisan laws. After all, each year since 1996, Democrat and Republican Presidents have signed the Dickey Amendment (including President Obama), relied upon by the court in its ruling (as they also have the older Hyde Amendment regarding abortion). Dickey (and Hyde) have been passed by both Republican and Democratic Congresses (including those led by Speaker Pelosi and Leader Reid).
Moreover, the IPSC breakthrough took out whatever political sting the ESCR issue once had–particularly since it was wielded mostly as sword against President Bush, and he’s long gone. The early wild hype of ESCR proponents has proven wildly overstated. Adult stem cells are chugging along, and people are learning of it despite the mainstream media’s under-reporting (to put it mildly and tactfully) the tremendous successes of adult stem cell therapies in early human trials.
I am not saying there won’t be political fight over ESCR funding in the wake of the court ruling. I think there will be. I am just saying that however that fight ends up, I don’t think it will matter much politically in the November election. People have other things on their minds.