Space Coalition: You Like Us! You Really Like Us!

The Coalition for Space Exploration released the result of a poll today showing that shows (surprise!) that the American people really like what they’re doing in exploring and utilizing space.

“Eighty-eight percent value the space exploration program. When presented with basic information about the space program, the overall statistic increases to 96%,” the Coalition announced.

The release of the poll corresponded with the Space Exploration Alliance’s annual blitz of Capitol Hill, a three-day effort to visit Congressional offices to promote more funding for NASA and other space causes.

It’s an interesting poll in that it seems as though it was done by asking respondents about their general attitudes on space (almost everyone would see some value in it) and them giving them facts about how valuable and important space is to society. And then the positive poll numbers increased.

Well, decide for yourself how useful this poll is in measuring actual attitudes. The official press release is below. The poll results are online.

COALITION FOR SPACE EXPLORATION
PRESS RELEASE

Despite the tough economic climate in the U.S., almost 90 percent of Americans see value in the U.S. space program. This finding is part of the results of a survey commissioned by the Coalition for Space Exploration, proving that space is still very important to the American people.

“We are pleased to see that the public clearly backs a well-rounded U.S. space exploration program. When combined with President Obama’s space policy that calls for the establishment of a robust and balanced civilian space program, it is vital that Washington leaders allow for and support appropriate funding for NASA,” said Dean Acosta, chairman of the Coalition’s Public Affairs Team.

The survey, which took place in mid-January, measured the public’s perceived value of the U.S. space program, and then re-measured it after presenting respondents with basic facts regarding the program’s national economic impact and technological spin-offs.

Before the basic facts were presented, respondents centered their value of the U.S. space program in three areas:

  • A source of technological innovation and advancement (77%)
  • Consumer product development based on technology used for space exploration (73%)
  • Inspiring students to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and math (69%)

However, upon learning basic facts about NASA and America’s space program, the percentage of support jumped from 88 to 96 percent.

“These latest survey results demonstrate that the more familiar Americans are with the U.S. space program, the more likely they are to place a higher value on it,” added Acosta. “We are in agreement with the new administration whose space policy states that a revitalized NASA can help America contribute to our country’s economic growth and maintain its edge in innovation.”

Some of the economic impact information shared with the survey respondents included:

  • The aerospace industry employs 500,000 people across the nation.
  • Aerospace industry sales in 2008 increased over the previous year to more than $204 billion and account for nearly 2% of the U.S. gross domestic product.
  • In 2007, the U.S. aerospace industry had a foreign trade surplus of $61 billion – the largest trade surplus of any manufacturing sector.

After learning these facts, nearly 80 percent of the survey pool placed more value on the U.S. space program.

When presented with a list of some of the consumer product spin-offs developed from technology used for space exploration – including GPS systems, direct-to-home TV, satellite radio, airbags, radial tires, smoke detectors and key healthcare surgical devices – 88 percent of respondents
placed more value on the U.S. space program. In fact, 93 percent said they use such spin-off technologies, with 72 percent of those using them “all the time.”

After learning that America’s role as the world’s space leader is being challenged by other nations, 87 percent of respondents said the U.S. should strive to maintain its leadership position. And, of that percentage, a solid majority (58 percent) thinks America “definitely should” strive to remain as
the world’s leader in exploring space.

The study also revealed, however, that Americans still lack a true understanding of the amount of the federal budget allotted to NASA. When asked to estimate NASA’s budget, 56 percent overestimated the figure. When told NASA currently receives less than 1 percent of the federal budget, 63 percent were “surprised” to learn the funding was that low.

The survey is part of the Coalition’s ongoing effort to better understand the extent of public support and views toward America’s space program. Over the years, the Coalition has conducted research using a variety of methods, including polls and focus groups.

“The Coalition continually seeks new and innovative ways to conduct its research,” said Joan Underwood, deputy chairwoman of the Coalition’s Public Affairs Team. “We’re excited that the findings remain consistent over time, validating that Americans maintain a strong sense of value in their space program.”