Somatic cell nuclear transfer has been a controversial subject for scientists and society since the birth of Dolly, the sheep, was announced in 1997. Its most promising potential application, "therapeutic cloning", is also a matter of moral conflict: is it worth destroying a potential human life on behalf of others? According to many recent surveys, public attitudes toward controversial scientific issues are not explained merely by widespread ignorance. Many different social actors have been dealing with those issues in the public arena and debating it in the media, schools, universities, churches etc. However, in Brazil the perceptions about cloning and stem cells remain largely unknown. This study aims to approach quantitatively the way Brazilian public perceive cloning and stem cells and to analyze potential influence of values and information over attitudes. Previous researches lead us to expect to find variables such as information level, religious practicing, and media exposure to the issues, among others, to interplay to compose public views. This study shows the results obtained in two surveys carried out in 4 bus stops of Campinas (São Paulo, Brazil). The first one was conducted at the beginning of 2007. Then, after spreading posters and folders through the city bus stops, a second survey is now being conducted, and data on knowledge, interest and attitudes, accessed through 18 objective questions, will be compared thereafter. Sociodemographic data were also obtained: age, sex, job status, level of education, and religious belief, practicing and influence over daily life. Results shows that people tend to know reproductive cloning and stem cells; but on the contrary, therapeutic cloning was very poorly known. Less educated respondents, more attached to religion, and less exposed to these issues in the media, school and other sources, took more often extreme attitudes, such as prohibiting research or giving scientists total freedom, as previously reported by other studies.

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Public perceptions of cloning and stem cells
Values, information and attitudes

Luis Alberto Magna   Universidade Estadual de Campinas

Carlos Alberto Vogt   Universidade Estadual de Campinas

Flavia Natércia da Silva Medeiros   Universidade Estadual de Campinas

Somatic cell nuclear transfer has been a controversial subject for scientists and society since the birth of Dolly, the sheep, was announced in 1997. Its most promising potential application, "therapeutic cloning", is also a matter of moral conflict: is it worth destroying a potential human life on behalf of others? According to many recent surveys, public attitudes toward controversial scientific issues are not explained merely by widespread ignorance. Many different social actors have been dealing with those issues in the public arena and debating it in the media, schools, universities, churches etc. However, in Brazil the perceptions about cloning and stem cells remain largely unknown. This study aims to approach quantitatively the way Brazilian public perceive cloning and stem cells and to analyze potential influence of values and information over attitudes. Previous researches lead us to expect to find variables such as information level, religious practicing, and media exposure to the issues, among others, to interplay to compose public views. This study shows the results obtained in two surveys carried out in 4 bus stops of Campinas (São Paulo, Brazil). The first one was conducted at the beginning of 2007. Then, after spreading posters and folders through the city bus stops, a second survey is now being conducted, and data on knowledge, interest and attitudes, accessed through 18 objective questions, will be compared thereafter. Sociodemographic data were also obtained: age, sex, job status, level of education, and religious belief, practicing and influence over daily life. Results shows that people tend to know reproductive cloning and stem cells; but on the contrary, therapeutic cloning was very poorly known. Less educated respondents, more attached to religion, and less exposed to these issues in the media, school and other sources, took more often extreme attitudes, such as prohibiting research or giving scientists total freedom, as previously reported by other studies.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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