DNA 50th Anniversary Survey

Fifty years after the discovery of the structure of DNA, a survey by the MORI Social Research Institute shows four in five British people (81%) are aware of at least one medical application when shown a list of eleven things made possible by the discovery of DNA.

DNA 50th Anniversary Survey

Fifty years after the discovery of the structure of DNA, a survey by the MORI Social Research Institute shows four in five British people (81%) are aware of at least one medical application when shown a list of eleven things made possible by the discovery of DNA.

The survey -- commissioned by the Medical Research Council -- shows that around 40% of the British public views gene therapy and understanding and predicting inherited genetic diseases as the DNA applications most beneficial to society. These figures increase to around half the population (in each case) when based on those aware of each application.

The most widely recognised DNA-related technique is DNA fingerprinting at 83%, followed by paternity testing at 80%. Three in five (61%) associate DNA with understanding and predicting inherited genetic diseases followed by genetically modified food (57%), gene therapy (55%) and tracing ancestry (55%).

More than half (53%) make the association between DNA and increasing understanding of the link between genes, environment and lifestyle in causing common diseases.

However, an analysis of the results however shows the techniques people were most familiar with were not necessarily those they believed to be most beneficial. When looking at the DNA-related applications most commonly seen as being of greatest benefit to society (by those who showed awareness), paternity testing and fingerprinting ranked below understanding and predicting genetic diseases and gene therapy.

Half (51%) of those aware of the development identified both inherited genetic diseases and gene therapy as providing the greatest benefits to society, while 47% said fingerprinting[see 1] and 16% identified paternity testing. Only seven per cent said GM food was most beneficial. Understanding the link between genes, environment and lifestyle in causing disease was seen by 40% as providing the greatest benefit.

  1. When the results are, however, based on the full sample, the highest proportion mentions fingerprinting as being of the greatest benefit to society.

Technical details

MORI Social Research Institute interviewed a representative quota sample of 1,972 adults aged 15+ in Great Britain, face-to-face, in-home, in 193 sampling points between 20-24 March 2003. Data have been weighted to the known profile of the GB population. The overall results are accurate to within +/- 2% (95 times in 100).

Topline Results

  • 1,972 interviews with adults aged 15+. Conducted in-home, face-to-face using CAPI
  • Fieldwork conducted 20-24 March 2003
  • 193 sampling points throughout Great Britain
  • Base all (1,972), unless otherwise stated
  • Data weighted to known profile of the GB population
  • '*' denotes a finding of less than half a per cent but more than zero. Where figures do not add up to 100%, this is due to computer rounding or multiple answers

Q1 When I say 'DNA', what, if anything, springs to mind?

 %
DNA identification / fingerprinting / Forensic science (as used in criminal investigations)31
Genes / Genetics29
Paternity testing (using DNA to identify an individual's father)8
Deoxyribonucleic acid6
The genetic material found in most cells in all living things5
Sperm / Hair / Skin / Blood / Saliva6
Biology3
The material that carries instructions for how a living thing develops and functions3
Science3
Blood tests / testing3
Chromosomes2
Gene Therapy (replacing a faulty gene with a healthy version)2
Genetically-modified plants / animals2
Inherited / Genetic diseases e.g. Sickle Cell Anaemia, Haemophilia2
Passed from parents to children2
Double helix / The shape of it2
The body2
Medicine / Medical research2
DNA vaccines1
Families1
Genetically-modified food / crops1
The human genome project1
Tracing ancestry / Family trees1
Cloning1
What we're made of / Building blocks1
Evolution1
Individual / Unique1
'Did Not Attend'1
Life1
Alcoholic drink*
Crick and Watson*
Personalised medicines (Tailor-made drugs for individual patients)*
Children / Babies*
Blood group*
HIV / AIDS*
Molecules*
Humans*
Testing (unspecified)*
Cells*
Jurassic Park / Dinosaurs*
Other2
Nothing4
Don't know7

As you may or may not know, DNA is the genetic material found in most cells in all living things. It is passed from parents to children and carries instructions for how a living thing develops and functions.

Q2 On this card is a list of things made possible by the discovery of DNA, some of which are common now, some of which may be available in the future. Which, if any, of them were you aware of before seeing this card? Q3 And, in your opinion, which two or three of these things, if any, do you feel will provide the greatest benefit to society?

 Q2Q3
 %%
DNA identification / fingerprinting (as used in criminal investigations)8343
Understanding / Predicting inherited genetic diseases6141
Gene Therapy (replacing a faulty gene with a healthy version)5538
Increasing understanding of the link between genes, environment and lifestyle in causing common diseases5330
Personalised medicines (Tailor-made drugs for individual patients)2727
DNA vaccines2718
Paternity testing (using DNA to identify an individual's father)8016
Sequencing the human genome / Knowing how many genes we have and how they might affect us physically4313
Improving our understanding of how life has evolved478
Genetically-modified food576
Tracing ancestry / Family trees556
  
None of these21
Don't know / No opinion36

Q2/Q3 Summary Table

 Q2Q3Q3
ApplicationAwarenessThought Greatly BeneficialThought Greatly Beneficial (Based on Awareness)
 Rank%Rank%Rank%
Understanding / Predicting inherited genetic diseases361241151
Gene Therapy (replacing a faulty gene with a healthy version)555338151
DNA identification / fingerprinting (as used in criminal investigations)183143 347
Increasing understanding of the link between genes, environment and lifestyle in causing common diseases653430440
Personalised medicines (Tailor-made drugs for individual patients)927527534
DNA vaccines927618630
Sequencing the human genome / Knowing how many genes we have and how they might affect us physically843813718
Paternity testing (using DNA to identify an individual's father)280716816
Improving our understanding of how life has evolved7479899
Genetically-modified food457106107
Tracing ancestry / Family trees555106 115

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