Yesterday the Coalition for Space Exploration released the results of a Gallup Poll on public interest in the Vision for Space Exploration. The survey is the third in a series dating back to mid-2005 commission by the organization to gauge public interest in the VSE; the release includes results from all three surveys. The results from the latest poll, performed in August, closely match the previous one in March, but both show slightly weaker support from the first poll in the series, in June 2005. For example, 66% of people in the latest poll support or strongly support the VSE, compared to 64% in March but 77% in June 2005. Also, 63% in the latest poll believe NASA should be funded at its current or increased levels, compared to 60% in March but 73% in 2005. (The margin of error is ±3%.)
The poll also addresses potential competition with China, but the question is a bit misleading:
Both China and the U.S. have announced plans to send astronauts to the moon. China has announced plans go to the moon by 2017
and the U.S. has announced plans to send astronauts to the moon by 2018, a
year later. To what extent, if any, are you concerned that China would
become the new leader in space exploration or take the lead over the U.S.?
To many people, that might appear that China would send people to the Moon ahead of the US, although the question doesn’t explicitly state that. The “China has announced plans go to the moon by 2017″ is misleading since China will go to the Moon—in the form of a lunar orbiter—as early as next year; the 2017 date is the current estimate for a sample return mission. Not that it really matters: only 28% in the August poll said they were somewhat or very concerned (up from 23% in March), while 69% were not concerned or not very concerned (up from 66% in March.)
Another poll, however, finds less support for the VSE among young adults. The Dittmar Associates poll of people aged 18-25 found a fair amount of apathy in a return to the Moon: 45% were “neutral”, compared to 29% interest and 23% opposed; about half were familiar with the VSE in some manner. Also, respondents were opposed by a 3-to-1 margin to sending humans to Mars, although a majority favored continued robotic exploration. There are some more details in a paper on the poll presented at the Space 2006 conference last week.