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The Ups and Downs of Stem Cell Research: The Impact of Policy Uncertainty

JHHSA, Vol. 35 No. 3, (2012)

Unlike scientists, politicians and the public rarely remain sharply focused on any domestic issue for very long. Without a front page story, a chief executive at the bully pulpit, or an outraged minority, public attitudes and behaviors about most key domestic problems are short-lived. Anthony Downs has suggested that public policies follow an issue-attention cycle. Our research on the ups and downs of the stem cell debate confirms that public attention wanes when the issue moves off the front page. Public opinion surveys linked with content analysis of national newspapers over a 10 year period confirm that while the scientific community continues to look for a cure, the public no longer expects an instant fix. As public interest in the issue has declined, media coverage is now more about science and less about controversy.

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