Another pessimistic poll

Sunday’s Albany Times-Union published an article based on a poll of people who live in the “Capital Region” of New York state. That poll showed considerable skepticism about Bush’s space initiative: 48% oppose the plan compared to 40% in favor. Moreover, 52% said that Bush was pushing this new plan primarily for political reasons; 21% said it was for scientific reasons and 17% said it was for both reasons. (The newspaper, to its credit, published the complete poll results in Excel format, including how the poll results break down based on sex, age, income, party affiliation, and religious interest.)

The poll also reveals an interesting contradiction among the public: 63% said the US should continue to send people into space, but 53% thought it was better to spend money on priorities other than space research. “The public likes the concept of manned space exploration,” said Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup Poll. “They did in the 1960s and they do now. They’re just worried about the cost.

4 comments to Another pessimistic poll

  • Anaxagoras

    I honestly am surprised that the number of people favoring human spaceflight is as large as it is, considering the media’s coverage of it. Rarely is any NASA project mentioned in a news broadcast unless it’s some sort of disaster. While the coverage of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers has been good, what was the coverage given to Galileo, or Cassini (except the stupid nuke angle before launch), or Stardust, or NEAR?

    If one judged the space program solely from the media coverage, one might conclude that it was nothing but an expensive series of total disasters which kill people and waste tax dollars.

    Considering this, I think it’s a positive sign that the public is about evenly split on Bush’s new program. What is needed is an agressive campaign to raise awareness about the success, potential and relatively low cost (compared to other government programs) of space exploration.

  • Anaxagoras

    Here’s a case in point about the media’s coverage of the space program. Read this article from Reuters, one of the critical outlets for journalism in the world today:

    Apparently, the reporter who is covering this story for Reuters is under the impression that the Mars Odyssey is some sort of “mother ship” which launched the two Maras rovers!

    With journalism like this, I’m not at all surprised that the public is as uninformed about space exploration as it is.

  • Jeff


    Reuters has filed a revised article that corrects the error you mentioned:

  • The answer to the problem is simple. The average citizen thinks that anything done in space must be done by the government. When space in this context is contrasted with other priorities, it falls off the radar screen (of course it would).

    However, if space activities were recast in terms of an environment for commercial activity (in addition to government activity), the vast majority of Americans would have no problem in principle with businesses setting up shop on the Moon, in orbit, and anywhere else in space.

    The problem is that space is seen as a governmental responsibility (carrying over from the Apollo days) by the general public. Even the polls are biased. The idea that space has potential as an economic free trade zone is an alien concept to most people. To believe by default that space is for the government to deal with and not about free enterprise and liberty is more communist than capitalist.

    Once again, I say that the President would have made a major step forward by announcing a space economic development plan rather than using another failed Apollo-style template. It would have been a major step forward because most Americans would have responded favorably to a new challenge in which they could all participate if they wanted to. I don’t want to see the Solar System filled with the feds, Lockheed Martin and Boeing. I want it to reflect the colors, vibrance, and innovation of many different people following many different approaches. That’s the Amercian way.