Day of Action Deep Prep: Public Polling

In this final deep prep assignment, I'd like you to thoroughly read a recent public poll by Pew on American attitudes toward space exploration. Its findings are consistent with other polling data in the past few years.

I'm assigning this because it is important to keep in mind public opinion about issues that are very important to us, as they will likely be reflected in those you meet in Congress. You may find the results of the polling surprising, even disagreeable. But, to be a better advocate, you must know the lay of the land and to anticipate arguments that reference these data.

Study questions:

  • What are the top priority and lowest priority NASA programs in terms of broad public support? 
  • Is there a relationship between NASA efforts that poll well and their funding?
  • How do you reconcile the overwhelming support for maintaining the ISS and the middling support for returning to the Moon?
  • Overall do you think this is a good or bad poll for the space program?

Answers:

  • The most popular: Monitor key parts of the Earth's climate system. The least: Send astronauts to the Moon.
  • If there is, it's an inverse relationship. NASA's Earth Science Division receives ~9% of the agency's annual funding, while the current Artemis program receives about 25%.
  • There are many ways to interpret this polling data. My personal interpretation is that most people don't think much one way or the other about NASA programs, and, when put on the spot, tend to evaluate responses by perceived relevance. The ISS is there now, it seems to work, and it's been going along for a while—why stop it? Sending people to the Moon, however, sounds expensive and lacks a practical motive (at least for many people).
  • Again, this is debatable. I think it's good, overall, as it's important to have a high baseline support for the effort. Though I do think it contains troubling signs that many people do not follow the details of space closely, meaning they could be easily influenced one way or another about the relative value and importance of the program or various competing space initiatives.