Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Poll: Majority of public disapprove of Bush's stem cell veto

Poll: Majority of public disapprove of Bush's stem cell veto

By Richard Benedetto, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — A majority of Americans disapprove of President Bush's veto of a bill expanding federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, though they say they believe he did so on principle, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll shows.

The poll taken last weekend finds 61% say Bush rejected the bill last week for personal moral beliefs; 32% say he did it to gain political advantage.

POLL: See complete results

It was Bush's first veto as president. The House of Representatives failed to override the veto.

White House deputy press secretary Ken Lisaius said Tuesday, "The president does not make policy decisions based on polling numbers. ... He vetoed the legislation because it would provide federal tax dollars to fund the present and future destruction of human life for research."

In 2001, Bush made available $90 million in federal funds for research on a restricted number of embryonic stem cell lines. The bill would have allowed federal funds to be used on research of frozen embryos from fertility clinics that would otherwise be discarded.

Bill supporters, such as former first lady Nancy Reagan, say embryonic stem cell research may lead to cures for diseases such as Alzheimer's and diabetes, and to help heal spinal cord injuries. Bush and other opponents argue that the destruction of human embryos required for the research amounts to taking human lives.

In his veto message, Bush said if the bill became law it would cross a moral boundary that "would be a grave mistake."

The poll shows a partisan gap: 61% of Republicans approve of the veto, compared with 19% of Democrats and 33% of independents.

Among those expressing disapproval, 76% say they were "very" or "somewhat" upset by the veto; 24%, not at all.

Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, head of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, and others in his party say they will make the veto an issue in the Nov. 7 elections. Ads are running in Wisconsin and are planned in Missouri, Pennsylvania and other states against Republicans who opposed the bill.

"They might be overstating the case," Lydia Saad, senior editor of the Gallup Poll, says of the Democrats' strategy. "It would not seem to be a make-or-break election issue. There doesn't seem to be that much public intensity."

Democratic critics charge that Bush rejected the bill to appeal to conservative voters who are a key element in the Republican base.

"This wasn't a pro-life veto. This was a political veto," says Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

After Bush's veto, two governors put up more money for embryonic stem cell research.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, lent $150 million from his state's general fund for grants to stem cell scientists. Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, offered $5 million for research grants in his state.

Five states had allocated $72 million for the research. Some foreign countries, including the United Kingdom and South Korea, also fund stem cell research.

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