NASA

Subtle partisan differences in space policy

One bit of conventional wisdom about public support for NASA is that the agency has broad bipartisan support. A USA Today/Gallup Poll released today confirms that notion to first order, although does show some slight differences. Respondents were asked to rate how well NASA was performing (excellent, good, “only fair”, poor, no opinion), what should be done with NASA’s budget (increased, kept at present levels, reduced, ended altogether, no opinion), and whether the shuttle program was worth the money spent on it.

On the job performance question the split between people who identified themselves as Republicans and those who identified themselves as Democrats was virtually identical: 58% of both Republicans and Democrats said NASA was doing an excellent or good job; 37% of Republicans and 36% of Democrats thought NASA was doing a fair or poor job. (There’s no breakout, unfortunately, for those who didn’t associate themselves with either party.)

A difference does emerge, however, on NASA spending: while 22% of Republicans thought that NASA’s budget should be reduced, 32% of Democrats were in the same camp, a difference that exceeds the three-percent margin of error of the poll. However, the overall distribution of opinion is similar between Republicans and Democrats, with 50% of Republicans and 46% of Democrats saying NASA’s budget should be kept at the same level, and only 18% of Republicans and 16% of Democrats in favor of a budget increase.

There’s also a visible difference between Republicans and Democrats on their opinion of the worth of spending money on the shuttle. Among Republicans, 40% thought the money would better spent in some other way (the question doesn’t specify if that means within or outside of NASA), while 55% think the shuttle is worth the money; the figures are almost reversed for Democrats: 53% think the money would be better spent elsewhere while 43% think the shuttle is worth it. Over all party affiliations, there’s a 48%-48% split on the question.

6 comments to Subtle partisan differences in space policy

  • I have to say it is nice to see that, apparently, I am not alone as a social liberal who supports space exploration — and that my conservative friends are wrong when they argue that spaceflight is purely a Republican endeavor.

    – Donald

  • Enthusiasm for space appears to be correlated with intelligence, with little or no correlation with politics at all. This apparently indicates that intelligence functions of the brain operate fairly independently of emotions. Whether or not intelligence can control emotions is a different problem.

  • Enthusiasm for space appears to be correlated with intelligence

    The jury is still out as to whether this is a positive or negative correlation, however…

  • Chris Mann

    lol. Good one shubber.

    There probably should have been three seperate categories assessing support for the manned spaceflight program, the science program and basic propulsion and aeronautics research in the polls.

    This may have given too much data to be politically useful though.

  • There probably should have been three seperate categories assessing support for the manned spaceflight program, the science program and basic propulsion and aeronautics research in the polls.

    Most voters make very little distinction among these.

  • Chris Mann

    I think you would be surprised Greg.

    Yes, the 50% of your country which is too stupid to vote for its leaders wouldn’t. However most of those who do actually make the time to be part of the process keep themselves informed.