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Towards an understanding of British public attitudes concerning human cloning.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

  • Richard Shepherd
  • Julie Barnett
  • Helen Cooper
  • Adrian Coyle
  • Jo Moran-Ellis
  • Victoria Senior
  • Chris Walton
Journal publication date07/2007
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Journal number2
Volume65
Number of pages16
Pages377-392
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The ability of scientists to apply cloning technology to humans has provoked public discussion and media coverage. The present paper reports on a series of studies examining public attitudes to human cloning in the UK, bringing together a range of quantitative and qualitative methods to address this question. These included a nationally representative survey, an experimental vignette study, focus groups and analyses of media coverage. Overall the research presents a complex picture of attitude to and constructions of human cloning. In all of the analyses, therapeutic cloning was viewed more favourably than reproductive cloning. However, while participants in the focus groups were generally negative about both forms of cloning, and this was also reflected in the media analyses, quantitative results showed more positive responses. In the quantitative research, therapeutic cloning was generally accepted when the benefits of such procedures were clear, and although reproductive cloning was less accepted there was still substantial support. Participants in the focus groups only differentiated between therapeutic and reproductive cloning after the issue of therapeutic cloning was explicitly raised; initially they saw cloning as being reproductive cloning and saw no real benefits. Attitudes were shown to be associated with underlying values associated with scientific progress rather than with age, gender or education, and although there were a few differences in the quantitative data based on religious affiliation, these tended to be small effects. Likewise in the focus groups there was little direct appeal to religion, but the main themes were ‘interfering with nature’ and the ‘status of the embryo’, with the latter being used more effectively to try to close down further discussion. In general there was a close correspondence between the media analysis and focus group responses, possibly demonstrating the importance of media as a resource, or that the media reflect public discourse accurately. However, focus group responses did not simply reflect media coverage.

Bibliographic note

The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, Social Science & Medicine 65 (2), 2007, © ELSEVIER.