New Poll on Human Gene Editing

The December 2018 AP-NORC Poll asked 1,067 adults about their attitudes toward the technology that could be used to edit the genes of human embryos

It was carried out a couple of weeks after China’s CRISPRgate.

Results are basically the same as for the July 2018 poll by PEW, in which 72% consider gene editing for treating a serious condition at birth appropriate but only 19% support it for intelligence augmentation.

Other polls I’m aware of:

It is useful to keep track of these polls because they’re going to play some role in whether the Age of Malthusian Industrialism happens or not.

Americans seem to be against it.

As are the Chinese. (Or perhaps said poll was fake, but that just means the CPC is against it, so it translates to the same thing anyway).

It would be interesting to see what Europeans and Russians think.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Swarthy Greek says

    Anyone responding no to the first 3 questions is undoubtedly a monster .

  2. How many of the polled adults are aware what they are asked about? How many of them could explain in their own words what is “gene” “DNA”, “embryo” and “intelligence”?

    Average Americans get everything they know from movies and TV, and this poll only means that they saw lots of Hollywood horror stories where mad scientists were creating monstrous mutants.
    Let the Hollywood crowd for few years push “glorious science” and “bright future” themes like they pushed for gay marriage and LGBT acceptance, and watch the attitudes switch.

  3. Anyone responding no to the last two questions is also a monster and probably a luddite.

  4. What is so bad about saying “no” to the last question?

  5. German_reader says

    A lot of religious types are like that (against “playing God”, suffering as a gift one has to accept, if there are fewer sick or disabled people born, it will lead to gas chambers for the disabled and mandatory euthanasia etc.).

  6. Did you ever try to fix something but it ended up broken worse than before? Because you thought you knew what you were doing but it turned out that you didn’t.

    How about they try to raise the intelligence of laboratory mice first before starting on humans?

  7. I’d like to see the same poll with respondents limited to parents of children. The questions would ask, would you like your child’s genes to be edited for X, Y, or Z?

    I suspect results will be wildly different.

  8. I wouldn’t lend much credence to polls such as this. They are most likely sensitive to the portrayal of these new tech breakthroughs in the media. If the elites have a positive opinion on gene editing, the masses will follow and the polls will quickly slide in line with the new norms.

  9. Abelard Lindsey says

    I understand the concerns about germline gene therapy, but how the hell can anyone be opposed to any kind of somatic cell gene therapy regardless of therapeutic or “enhancement” purposes. Somatic cell therapy only affects the individual undergoing the treatment. It does not affect future generations.

    I actually don’t have an opinion on germline gene therapy as I don’t have kids. I think it up to prospective parents to be to decide if this is appropriate technology or not. Of course I do not believe in any limits on somatic cell therapy nor do I consider it even a subject of public debate. What competent adults do with their own selves is purely a private matter, providing they do not become a burden on others (e.g. substance abuse, etc.).

  10. Here is a partial list of worldwide opinion polls on genetic editing:

    Highlights below. (Sample sizes not listed are unavailable.)
    TL;DR US support for cognitive enhancements collapsed in the 1990s. Support for genetic editing appears to be higher outside the Hajnal line (see Turkey, Italy, Spain).

    U.K., XI.2017: 32% support, 60% oppose editing for intelligence and abilities (n = 2,061)
    U.S., I.2016: 11% support, 83% oppose editing for intelligence/physical traits (n = 520)
    U.S., I.2016: 14% support, 82% oppose federal funding for intelligence/physical traits (n = 520)
    U.S., V.2015: 28% oppose, 72% support moratorium on genetic editing (n = 1,018)
    U.S., VIII.2014: 15% support, 83% oppose editing for intelligence (78% men, 87% women) (n = 2,002)
    U.S., I.2014: 16% support, 72% oppose research for intelligence editing (n = 1,000)
    U.K., VIII.2005: 4% would modify own children to improve academics or sports (n = 2,432)
    Brazil, late 2002: 82% oppose designer babies
    Denmark, late 2002: 97% oppose designer babies
    Mexico, late 2002: 76% oppose designer babies
    Poland, late 2002: 18% support, 67% oppose designer babies
    Taiwan, late 2002: 67% oppose designer babies
    Turkey, late 2002: 43% support, 53% oppose designer babies
    U.K., late 2002: 92% oppose designer babies
    U.S., late 2002: 87% oppose designer babies
    U.S., VI.2002: 20% support, 76% oppose editing for intelligence/physical traits
    Scotland, fall 2000: ~90% oppose designer babies (n = 1,001)
    U.S., 1996: 35% support editing for physical traits
    U.K., 1994: 8% support, 88% oppose editing for intelligence*
    New Zealand, 1993: 24% support, 67% oppose editing for intelligence (n = 329)
    Australia, 1993: 27% support, 62% oppose editing for intelligence (n = 201)
    Japan, 1993: 26% support, 54% oppose editing for intelligence (n = 352)
    India, 1993: 70% support, 23% oppose editing for intelligence** (n = 568)
    Thailand, 1993: 74% support, 22% oppose editing for intelligence** (n = 680)
    Russia, 1993: 35% support, 49% oppose editing for intelligence** (n = 446)
    Israel, 1993: 22% support, 70% oppose editing for intelligence** (n = 50)
    Philippines, 1993: 49% support, 47% oppose editing for intelligence* (n = 164)
    Singapore, 1993: 41% support, 54% oppose editing for intelligence* (n = 250)
    Hong Kong, 1993: 36% support, 53% oppose editing for intelligence* (n = 105)
    U.S., XII.1993: 34% support, 62% oppose editing for intelligence (8% support, 88% oppose mass editing for genetically desirable traits) (n = 500)
    U.S., 1992: 42% support, 55% oppose editing for physical traits (n = ~1,000)
    U.S., X-XI.1986: 44% support, 53% oppose editing for intelligence. (n = 1,273)

    *Survey polls medical or biology students.
    **Survey mostly polls teachers, academics and engineers/medical workers/government workers.

    Other polls:

    CZ, DE, ES, IT, SE, UK, XII.2017-II.2018: 29%, 33%, 49%, 47%, 32%, 41% respectively support non-medical editing (n = 6,000; 1,000 per country):

    U.S., II.2014: 26% support, 66% oppose editing for intelligence/physical traits (n = 1,001):

    Already mentioned:

    U.S., XII.2018: 12% support, 69% oppose editing embryos for intelligence (11%, 66% for developing embryos) (n = 1,067)
    China, VI-IX.2018: 30% support editing for intelligence (n = 4,196)
    U.S., IV-V.2018: 19% support, 80% oppose editing for intelligence (n = 2,537)
    U.S., XII.2016-I.2017: 26% support, 51% oppose germline enhancement (n = 1,600)
    U.S., III.2016: 34% enthusiastic, 69% worried about brainchips to improve intelligence (n = 4,726).

  11. I would guess that the extremely anti-racist and egalitarian zeitgeist west of the Hajnal line causes people there to consider genetic editing for physical traits and intelligence to be implicitly racist or otherwise discriminatory. This reminds me of how, after the successful cloning of Dolly the sheep was announced, the European Union rushed to declare that the potential cloning of human beings is inherently racist:

    This knee-jerk reaction to anything that can even remotely be construed as racist is going to have a serious negative effect on scientific research in the West.

  12. It’s interesting to consider how it appears in sci-fi:

    Star Trek: Khan is a villain. Gene mod is banned. You go to prison, even for making a severely retarded boy into a brilliant MD.

    Stargate: the Asgard – alien race – dies off due to excessive self-genetic engineering. It is suggested that evolution passed them by, and they will not ascend and become godlike beings as humans are destined to.

    But, at the end of the day, power doesn’t come from public opinion.

  13. Abelard Lindsey says

    I suspect the vast majority of the public in any given country does not understand the difference between germline genetic engineering and somatic cell genetic engineering. Whenever I hear the phrase “genetic engineering” or genetic modification” of human, most people automatically think of “designer babies”.

    I actually think that if you explained what somatic gene therapy was to someone, they would not consider it to be “genetic engineering”. They would consider it to be just another medical treatment and nothing more.

  14. Anarcho-Supremacist says

    I do not know how the euros or the “democratic” east asian countries could be against it when they abort every fetus they think has a one percent chance of having downs sydrom?

  15. Elites are hardly going to let masses of average types wipe out their natural hereditary status of DNA-borne intelligence . The assumption of all Sci-Fi is that genetically engineered humans would be far superior, and the old ruling class will ban them.

    Sci-Fi also assumes that intelligent computers will decide to rule or exterminate humanity. Scientists, on the other hand, assume the very opposite.

    AI research has been going on for a long time (McCarthy, et al. 1956), was absurdly over-confident in the imminence of AI for an extended period (Simon 1965) (Russell and Norvig 2009), but researchers have paid scant attention to safety until recently (Bostrom 2000). Indeed, science fiction works have given much more, and earlier (Asimov 1942), attention to the issue of safety than serious academic works have. This is the clearest indication that the OAI designers will, if left to their own devices, most likely neglect security.

  16. The elites everywhere are and must be against it for much less avowable reasons than the ones they actually can give.

  17. I just find it funny, especially in case of South Korea where they can`t stop modifying their faces to clearly alien standard.

  18. AI researchers just know that overhyped pattern matcher is hardly a Skynet. Hell, they have to worry about it not going full Adolf in five hours more.