Public Opinion And Media Coverage Of Animal Cloning And The Food Supply
This Food Policy Institute study reviewed 17 public opinion surveys published between 2000 and 2006 to analyze attitudes about animal cloning and the food supply. The review determined that most Americans, Canadians, and Europeans have heard of cloning, but they have little knowledge about it. Consequently, when Americans express an opinion about animal cloning, they are more likely to express their first impression of the topic, rather than an informed position.
This project consisted of three parts, a review of publicly available surveys related to the issue, a set of interviews with a group of opinion leaders examining their mental models of animal cloning and the food supply, and a review of media coverage of cloning and animals published in 2005.
Review of Public Opinion Surveys
A review of 17 surveys published between 2000 and 2006 suggested that most Americans, Canadians, and Europeans have heard of cloning, but know little about it. Consequently, when an opinion is expressed about animal cloning, it’s more likely to represent an individual’s first impression rather than a developed position. These opinions are therefore likely to change over time and are subject to influence by wording and context of the question.
Mental Modeling Interviews
Interviews with ten opinion leaders confirmed that initial reactions to the cloning of animals focus on emotions. The initial reactions addressed whether or not cloning is a bad or good idea versus what the process actually is. All opinion leaders readily identified the potential benefits of cloning, though few thought they were solutions to immediate problems. These leaders also believed that the predominant reasons people would not want to clone animals were related to uncertain and unintended consequences. In addition, half of this group did not believe they would know the difference between milk and meat products of cloned animals. Few had any specific idea how the cloning process works.
Using Google searches on combinations of “animals,” “cloning,” and/or “cloned,” this study suggested that 46% of the media sources examined were in favor of cloning, 21% were against it, and 21% were considered to be balanced sources. An additional 12% were considered “neutral” containing only impartial opinions. The type of media ultimately dictated the overall tenor of the arguments presented, although it did not differ significantly across media types. By including the word “food” in Internet searches, 98% of links led to news articles. Scientific explanations about the techniques of cloning were more common on the web (79%) than in news articles on the web (57%) or in print news articles (48%).