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.