I guess we now know why Rush Limbaugh has engaged in such bizarrely self-defeating excess in attacking Michael J. Fox: Stem cell research, as a political issue, is hurting the GOP, potentially quite badly.
• Among all respondents, support for stem cell research increased from 78% prior to viewing the ad, to 83% after viewing the ad. Support among Democrats increased from 89% to 93%, support among Republicans increased from 66% to 68% and support among Independents increased from 80% to 87% after viewing the ad.
• The level of concern regarding a candidate’s view on stem cell research increased among all respondents from 57% prior to viewing the ad to 70% after viewing the ad. Among Democrats, the level of concern increased from 66% to 83% and Republicans’ level of concern increased from 50% to 60%. Independents’ level of concern increased from 58% to 69%.
• The perception that the November election is relevant to the U.S. policy on stem cell research increased across all voter segments, with an increase of 9% among all respondents pre- and post-viewing from 62% to 71%. The Democrats’ perception increased from 75% to 83%, Republicans’ perception increased from 55% to 62% and Independents’ perception increased from 60% to 68% pre- and post-viewing.
• The advertisement elicited similar emotional responses from all responders with all voter segments indicating that they were “not bored and attentive” followed by “sorrowful, thankful, afraid and regretful.”
• The vast majority of responders indicated that the advertisement was believable with 76% of all responders reporting that it was “extremely believable” or “believable.” Among party affiliation, 93% of Democrats 57% of Republicans and 78% of Independents indicated it “extremely believable” or “believable.”
Even more strikingly, the survey found that watching the ad (see it here) actually changed how people planned to vote. The number of Republicans reporting they planned to vote for a Republican went down 10%, while the number of independents planning to vote Democratic went up 10%. In a close election like this, those numbers are huge.
And what should be particularly troubling to Republicans in all this is that — Michael J. Fox notwithstanding — the ad’s potency doesn’t arise entirely, or even primarily, from star quality. No, this is about common sense and basic humanity. And putting the “interests” of a small collection of cells, destined to be thrown away as medical waste anyway, ahead of the hopes of millions of Americans who, just like Fox, are suffering from catastrophic diseases fails the test badly on both counts.
The real power of Fox’s message then is in the fact it speaks the truth — a truth so obvious that attempting to counter it serves only to increase its strength. And for Republican politicians who feel compelled to kiss the ring of the Religious Right on this issue, this is an extraordinarily inconvenient truth.
So keep on spewing your hate, Rush. Let’s keep this in the news right up until election day.
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