Assessing the Impact of Religious Beliefs on Public Perceptions and U.S. Government Policies: The Case of Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Robinson, Tomeka Michelle
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This dissertation presents three separate studies designed to provide structure and evidence-based insight into the impact of religious beliefs on public perceptions and U.S. government policies regarding embryonic stem cell research. First, a systematic literature review of nine (n=9) empirical studies that examined individuals' religious beliefs and perceptions/utilization of genetic technologies/services will be presented. Based on the finding from the review, there was an equal balance between studies that found that religion was a factor positively affecting intention to submit to genetic testing and those that illustrated a negative association. Secondly, a qualitative examination of college students' from various racial/ethnic and religious backgrounds exploring the definition, interpretation, and conceptualization of the influence of religious beliefs on perceptions regarding embryonic stem cell research will be offered. Employing an emergent design, the data collection process encompassed thirty-seven in-depth interviews. The majority of participants in this study believed that ESCR should be conducted and federally funding in the United States, regardless of their religious beliefs. Lastly, the findings from the analysis of congressional records from the U.S. Congress for areas of convergence and divergence between discussions, voting, and legislation regarding stem cell research with the official stances of the major religious groups in the United States accessing the influence of religious rhetoric on political discourse regarding embryonic stem cell research will be discussed. Findings from this study suggest that religious rhetoric has a substantial influence on political rhetoric regarding ESCR.