Day of Action Deep Prep: Public Polling and Economic Impact

In this deep prep assignment, I'd like you to consider recent public polling on American attitudes toward space exploration. Its findings are consistent with other polling data taken in the past few years.

I'm assigning this because it is important to keep in mind public opinion about issues that are important to us. You may find the results of the polling surprising, even disagreeable. But, to be a better advocate, you must be prepared for skeptics. Given the mixed results in the following poll, consider how you would work to change people's minds. In other words, how could you make space exploration feel more relevant and important for people who do not already feel that way? Be prepared to deploy that in response to a space-hesitant staffer or member of Congress.

    Public attitudes toward NASA priorities, July 2023
    Public attitudes toward NASA priorities, July 2023 Note: Respondents who did not give an answer are not shown. Source: Survey of U.S. adults conducted May 30–June 4, 2023. “Americans’ Views of Space: U.S. Role, NASA Priorities and Impact of Private Companies," Pew Research

    The chart above is from Public views of NASA's top priorities in space, Pew Research, from July 2023. I recommend reading this poll and thinking through how you would interpret these data — is the public familiar enough with space issues that this reflects a deep-seated opinion? Or are people reacting in the moment to aspects of space activities that sound relevant?

    This type of response is consistent with prior polling from various agencies, including Nearly Half the Public Wants the U.S. to Maintain Its Space Dominance from MorningConsult in February of 2021.

    For further discussions of public polling and spaceflight, I recommend this paper by NASA historian Roger Launius: Public Opinion Polls and Perceptions of U.S. Human Spaceflight, 2003.

      Perhaps helpful in responding to the above issues, read through NASA's 2022 economic impact report summary. It reminds us that everything we do out there is invested here, on Earth. This information complements the information found on NASA's contract listings (the NASA Procurement Data View), which you should be familiar with from the Space Advocacy 101 course.

      Consider:

      • 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 strongly do you think people hold these views?
      • What states' economies are the largest beneficiaries of NASA? Is there a relationship between that and the interest displayed by those states' elected officials?

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