With an executive order, President Obama lifted the limits on funding for human embryonic-stem-cell research yesterday, research supported by 51% of Americans in a September 2007 Pew Research survey. While a majority say it is more important to conduct stem-cell research that might result in new medical cures, 35% say protecting the potential life of embryos is more important. The issue divides the public along political lines, with Democrats, independents, liberals and moderates supporting stem-cell research and Republicans and conservatives opposing. The debate also cuts along religious lines, with the unaffiliated, white mainline Protestants and white non-Hispanic Catholics supporting research and white evangelicals siding with protecting potential human life. Black Protestants and white non-Hispanic Catholics who attend church at least weekly are split on the issue. Obama also issued a presidential memorandum directing federal agencies to “restore scientific integrity” to public policy decisions. According to a spring 2007 Pew Research survey, more than six-in-ten disagree that they are “worried that science is going too far and hurting society rather than helping it,” while roughly a third (34%) agree with the statement. Race and education are by far the most important factors in opinions about whether science is helping or hurting society. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.