Friday, August 04, 2006

"Culture war" in America may be overblown (Who are these people they polled?)

Who are these people they polled? The results seem to contradict what most people actually know and experience.

"Culture war" in America may be overblown: poll

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The so-called culture wars rending America over such issues as abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research may be overblown, based on a U.S. poll released on Thursday.

"Despite talk of 'culture wars' and the high visibility of activist groups on both sides of the cultural divide, there has been no polarization of the public into liberal and conservative camps," the Pew Research Center said, commenting on its poll of 2,003 American adults.

Best illustrating the willingness of Americans to consider opposing points of view is that two-thirds of poll respondents supported finding a middle ground when it comes to abortion rights -- a solid majority that stood up among those calling themselves evangelicals, Catholics, Republicans or Democrats.

The issue of abortion continued to split the country -- 31 percent want it generally available, 20 percent say it should be allowed but want to impose some restrictions, 35 percent want to make it illegal with few exceptions, and 9 percent want it banned altogether.

The poll, sponsored by the nonpartisan research group, was conducted with adults by telephone July 6-19 and had a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.

On five prominent social issues -- abortion rights, stem cell research, gay marriage, adoption of children by gay couples, and availability of the "morning-after" pill -- most Americans did not take consistent stances.

Just 12 percent took the conservative position on all five issues, while 22 percent took the opposite stance on all five. The bulk of Americans had mixed opinions.

On the subject of gay unions, 56 percent opposed giving gays the right to marry, but 53 percent favored allowing gays to enter into legal agreements that provide many of the same rights as married couples.

There has been an increase in recent years in the proportion of Americans who believe homosexuality is innate -- 36 percent, up from 30 percent in 2003. Similarly, 49 percent believed homosexuals cannot be changed to heterosexual, compared to 42 percent in 2003.

The poll's findings on stem cell research -- which preceded President George W. Bush's veto of a bill to expand federal funding -- showed 56 percent favored the research even though human embryos would be destroyed, while 32 percent were opposed. Most of the gains in support of stem cell research occurred prior to 2004 and has been stable since.

But perhaps more significantly, 57 percent of the respondents said they had heard little or nothing about the stem cell debate.