Michigan voters on Tuesday approved Proposal 2, which changes state law to allow people to donate embryos left over from fertility treatments for scientific research. Those embryos, which may or may not be suitable for implantation, would otherwise be thrown away as medical waste.
With 93 percent of the precincts reporting early Wednesday, 52 percent, or 2,258,806 people, voted ``yes'' on Proposal 2. Forty-eight percent, or 2,052,596, opposed it.
``This is a great night for the state of Michigan,'' said Sean Morrison, director of the University of Michigan Center for Stem Cell Biology and a vocal supporter of the proposal. ``Clearly the voters saw through the misinformation and fear that the opposition were spreading.
``I can tell you this: We'll be meeting within the next week ... to expand our embryonic research program. We expect in the short-term millions of new dollars of grants to come from the federal government and private foundations to support the expanded research.''
Proposal 2's strongest support came from college graduates and people who have done postgraduate work. High school graduates and dropouts were inclined to oppose it.
The findings were based on analysis of information from voters interviewed as they left polling places. The interviews were conducted for The Associated Press by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International.
Voters rejected arguments of the opposition, who warned the measure could mean backdoor tax increases, unlimited research and cloning in a series of ads, mailers and public forums.
They ran ads that included images of humans with hooves instead of hands and fictional company logos such as ``Cloneway'' and ``Human Double Inc.'' The Michigan Catholic Conference and Right to Life of Michigan largely funded the opponents' campaign.
Stem cell research advocates countered that the critics were concocting wild stories and scaring voters. They said Proposal 2 actually would impose restrictions that don't exist in many other states and would build upon existing federal restrictions.
Dave Doyle, spokesman for the opposition group Michigan Citizens Against Unrestricted Science and Experimentation, said he was disappointed with the results and speculated that a big voter turnout and big spending by supporters could have affected the outcome.
``I think that legislative leaders ... need to take a look at this,'' he said. ``Proponents have said this will be highly regulated. We'll have to see. The constitutional amendment doesn't give us comfort that it will regulated in Michigan.''
The exit poll also found that people who described themselves as white evangelicals or born-again Christians made up nearly three in 10 of all voters. Of those, about seven in 10 were opposed to the measure. White Catholics made up one-fourth of the electorate, and they were evenly divided.
Other groups that gave the measure strong support included blacks and people under 30.
Some embryonic stem cell research was allowed in Michigan, but only on stem cell lines already established by researchers in other states. The state also allows research on adult stem cells and those taken from umbilical cords, but Proposal 2 advocates say embryonic research has more potential for treatments and cures for such illnesses as cancer, Lou Gehrig's disease, Alzheimer's and spinal cord injuries.
Abbas Ammar, 23, of Dearborn Heights, supported the proposal because he believes ``it's going to help humanity in a big way.''
``People should have the right to choose what they want to do with their embryos,'' he said.
On the Net: Pro Proposal 2: http://www.curemichigan.com
Anti-Proposal 2: http://www.micause.com