172455 Who supports genetic research? Demographic factors associated with beliefs on risks and benefits

Monday, October 27, 2008: 8:54 AM

Daniel J. Kruger, PhD , School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Toby Jayaratne, PhD , Health Behavior & Health Education, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Debate about genetic research has intensified in response to recent scientific emphasis on the genetic basis for disease. Given the public health implications of such debates, we examined Black and White Americans' opinions about risks versus benefits of genetic research, specifically investigating the demographic correlates of such views. We predicted that African Americans would hold less favorable views about genetic research than White Americans due to a general mistrust of medical research, based on historical events. We also anticipated that those who are more religious would hold less favorable opinions about genetic research than others because of beliefs regarding free will and morality. Genetic explanations for behavior may be perceived as conflicting with notions of salvation through the personal choice of approved behaviors. Finally, we predicted that higher levels of education would be associated with more acceptance of genetic research, given increased exposure to science as a discipline among those with more education. As part of a larger study of genetic beliefs, we asked a representative sample of White and Black Americans (N=1200), the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with the statement, "the risks of doing research on human genes outweigh the benefits." Approximately one-third of white respondents and half of black respondents agreed with this statement. Regression analyses controlling for age, gender, race, political orientation, income and parental status indicated support for all our hypotheses. We discuss these results in the context of the larger debate about the influence of genetic research in the public health domain.

Learning Objectives:
1. Recognize demographic groups which are more likely to support or oppose genetic research and participate in genetic/genomic projects. 2. Describe reasons why the above groups may perceive greater risks or benefits from genetic/genomic research. 3. Apply the knowledge described above in genetics/genomics educational and outreach efforts.

Keywords: Genetics, Ethics

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Generated hypotheses, conducted analyses
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.