Interesting new Pew Research study on American opinions about radical life extension

by [anonymous] 1 min read9th Aug 201321 comments


This new study by Pew Research on American opinions about radical life extension turned up some interesting results:

Asked whether they, personally, would choose to undergo medical treatments to slow the aging process and live to be 120 or more, a majority of U.S. adults (56%) say no. But roughly two-thirds (68%) think that most other people would.

Asked about the consequences for society if new medical treatments could slow the aging process and allow the average person to live decades longer, to at least 120 years old, about half of U.S. adults (51%) say the treatments would be a bad thing for society, while 41% say they would be a good thing.

An overwhelming majority believes that everyone should be able to get these treatments if they want them (79%). But two-thirds think that in practice, only wealthy people would have access to the treatments... About two-thirds agree that longer life expectancies would strain our natural resources and that medical scientists would offer the treatment before they fully understood how it affects people's health. And about six-in-ten (58%) say these treatments would be fundamentally unnatural.

About two-thirds of adults (63%) say medical advances that prolong life are generally good because they allow people to live longer, while about three-in-ten (32%) say medical advances are bad because they interfere with the natural cycle of life.

The survey contains a number of null findings that may be surprising. It turns out, for example, that many standard measures of religious beliefs and practices, including belief in God and frequency of attendance at religious services, are related to views on radical life extension only weakly, if at all. Nor is there a strong relationship in the survey between the gender, education or political party identification of respondents and what they say about longer human life spans... At least one question that deals directly with death, however, is correlated with views on radical life extension. People who oppose the death penalty are more inclined to say that longer life spans would be good for society.

I also find the demographic splits on page 3 to be surprising. On the question of whether treatments to extend life by decades would be a good thing for society, whites are significantly less likely to agree: 36% of whites agree whereas 48% of Hispanics and 56% of blacks do. There is a negative correlation with age (48% of adults 18-29, 46% of adults 30-49, 37% of adults 50-64, 31% of adults 65 and older) and with income (47% of those earning 30k and less, 42% of those earning from 30k-75k, and 39% of those earning 75k+). The income result in particular surprises me, as my intuition was that people with a higher quality of life would be significantly more pro-life extension.