WASHINGTON, March 19 (UPI) -- Nearly 70 percent of Americans favor allowing therapeutic cloning or the production of cells that might have the potential to treat disease and more than half want to ban reproductive cloning, a new survey released Wednesday reveals.
The survey results came as the cloning debate heated up in the Senate, with the Judiciary Committee conducting a hearing to examine the difference between therapeutic and reproductive cloning.
The Senate has yet to vote on the cloning issue but members of the House voted in February to ban both types of the procedure. Most scientists think therapeutic cloning can lead to treatments for various diseases, such as Parkinson's and diabetes, but it remains controversial because it requires the destruction of a human embryo -- a small ball of cells tinier than a grain of sand.
"This poll makes it clear that the majority of Americans want to see this research proceed," Sean Tipton, spokesman for the Council for the Advancement of Medical Research, told United Press International. CAMR, comprised of university medical centers, scientific organizations and patient groups, commissioned the poll.
"Unfortunately, it shows the House ignored public and expert scientific opinion in their decision to prohibit it," Tipton added.
The poll, conducted by Opinion Research Corporation International, surveyed more than 1,000 Americans and found 67 percent said they favored Congress allowing research with therapeutic cloning to continue. However, 55 percent said they opposed human reproductive cloning. The poll, which produced results very similar to a separate poll CAMR conducted last year, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent, researchers said.
"The American public can and does make a distinction between reproductive and therapeutic cloning," Tipton said. "They're different things and the American public understand they're different things."
Of those surveyed, 30 percent favored both reproductive and therapeutic cloning and 12 percent did not want a ban on either one.
Pollsters found those with a college education were more likely to favor therapeutic cloning. About 75 percent of those who had a college degree favored the research, compared with 63 percent of those with a high school degree.
Two competing cloning bills have been introduced in the Senate. One bill, sponsored by Sam Brownback, R-Kan., would ban both types of cloning. The other, co-sponsored by a bi-partisan group including senators Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., would ban reproductive cloning but allow therapeutic cloning research under strict oversight and guidelines.
The poll "reflects what Senator Hatch has experienced personally when he has talked to his constituents," a staffer in the senator's office told UPI. "He's found the support is definitely out there for what he's trying to do in his bill," the staffer said, noting Hatch has received letters and phone calls from his pro-life constituents signaling their support for therapeutic cloning.
The staffer said Hatch was confident his bill would pass in the Senate.
Sen. Brownback's office did not return UPI's phone calls by presstime.