Earlier this month, the polling group YouGov released the results of a recent poll on space issues. The poll covered a hodgepodge of topics, from reasons for supporting NASA to whether the poll respondent would be interested in flying in space “free of costs.” One question of interest was on NASA funding: “The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) budget for 2014 is $16 billion, its lowest level since 2007. Do you think NASA’s budget is…” with the options of much too high, too high, about right, too low, and much too low. (The question is slightly incorrect: NASA’s fiscal year 2014 appropriations have not been set yet, and it is likely to get a little more than $16 billion, with the passage of a two-year overall budget deal that avoids sequestration.)
The overall poll results indicate that the majority believe NASA is getting about the right amount of funding or too little:
|Much too high||11%|
|Much too low||13%|
However, YouGov also provides detailed poll results, which break down the overall numbers (based on a survey of 1,170 adults in late November; margins of error are not included) into various categories based on the poll respondents’ ages, genders, location, and other factors. Those breakdowns reveal some interesting, but perhaps not that surprising, gaps in support.
One such gap is between men and women. Nearly half of men polled thought NASA funding was too low, while women were split almost equally between thinking NASA was getting too much or too little:
(In this and subsequent tables, the “too high” and “much too high” responses are combined, as are “too low” and “much too low” to simplify the results.)
Another gap is on race: 44% those who identified themselves as white said NASA’s budget was too low, versus 22% who thought it was too high. However, responses among blacks were almost the reverse: 34% thought NASA’s budget was too high, versus 14% who thought it too low. Hispanics, meanwhile, were more evenly split.
Another gap in support in NASA spending is based on education. For those who said they had a high school education or less, there was an even split between those who thought NASA’s budget was too high versus those who thought it too low. However, as education levels increased, the fraction who thought NASA’s budget was too high declined, while the fraction who thought it too low increased—an argument, perhaps, for NASA education efforts?
|High school or less||Some college||College Grad||Post Grad|
There was also a trend in NASA support based household income: those making less than $40,000 a year were more likely to think NASA’s current budget was too high than those making $80,000 or more a year (a trend likely correlated to some degree with education levels):
|Under $40K||$40–80K||More than $80K||Prefer not to say|
It’s always tempting to read more into a single poll’s results than is recommended, given the limitations of polling and the sensitivity of poll results to how questions are structured: what if, for example, the YouGov poll had used NASA’s fraction of the overall federal budget versus a dollar amount? However, the poll suggests that while support for NASA may generally be positive, it is not evenly distributed.