Clear majority (when asked) also believes that Attorney General Ashcroft is wrong to oppose Oregon proposition allowing physician- assisted suicide
Rochester, NY, January 9, 2002 By approximately two-to-one, most adults continue to favor the right to euthanasia and physician- assisted suicide. When read a brief description of the Oregon proposition, allowing physician-assisted suicide for patients who are thought to have less than six months to live, a 61% to 34% majority said that they would favor such a law in their state. Unsurprisingly most people say (by 58% to 35%), when told about it, that Attorney General Ashcroft was wrong to move to overrule the Oregon proposition.
These are some of the findings of the latest issue of The Harris Poll conducted by Harris InteractiveSM via telephone with a nationwide sample of 1,011 adults between December 14 19, 2001. The key findings are:
By 65% to 29%, a substantial majority thinks “the law should allow doctors to comply with the wishes of a dying patient in severe distress who asks to have his or her life ended.” Harris Interactive has asked this question since 1982, when a 53% to 34% majority supported it. Support peaked, at 73% to 24%, in 1993 and has declined somewhat since then to the current 65% to 29% majority.
A 63% to 32% majority disagrees with the 1997 Supreme Court ruling that individuals do not have a constitutional right to doctor- assisted suicide. These numbers are virtually identical to replies given in 1997 (65% to 32%).
A 61% to 34% majority (when read a detailed description of it) favors the Oregon proposition that would allow doctor-assisted suicide for patients with six months to live, if all three of the following conditions were met:
a) The patient requests it three times.
b) There is a second physician s opinion.
c) There is a 15-day waiting period for the patient to change his or her mind.
It is worth noting that the 58% to 35% majority which believes that the Attorney General is wrong to oppose this proposition is slightly smaller than the 61% to 34% majority which favors the Oregon proposition. This may reflect some sympathy for the Attorney General who has been enjoying positive ratings recently, along with other senior members of the Cabinet who have been visible in fighting the “war on terrorism.”
These findings do not mean that most people have heard about, or have opinions about, the Oregon proposition or the Attorney General’s actions.
No matter which questions are asked, there is a strong, approximately two-to-one, majority in favor of an individual’s right to euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide where terminally ill patients clearly want this to happen. Whether the opposition of many conservatives, Republicans, and the Catholic Church, among others, can reverse this position is unclear. In the short and medium term however it is seems likely that the majority support for this position found in this poll will continue.
Humphrey Taylor is the chairman of The Harris Poll¨, Harris Interactive.
This issue of The Harris Poll¨ was conducted by telephone within the United States between December 14 19, 2001 among a nationwide cross section of 1,011 adults. Figures for age, sex, race, education, number of adults and number of voice/telephone lines in the household were weighted where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population.
In theory, with a probability sample of this size, one can say with 95 percent certainty that the results have a statistical precision of plus or minus 3 percentage points of what they would be if the entire adult population had been polled with complete accuracy.
These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.
About Harris Interactive
[site www.harrisinteractive.com]Harris Interactive[/site] (Nasdaq: HPOL) is a worldwide market research and consulting firm, best known for The Harris Poll¨ and its pioneering use of the Internet to conduct scientifically accurate market research. Strengthened by its recent merger with Total Research Corporation, the Company now combines the power of technology with international expertise in predictive, custom, strategic research. Headquartered in the United States, with offices in the United Kingdom, Japan and a global network of local market and opinion research firms, the Company conducts international research with fluency in multiple languages.