Public Support for Space Exploration: 2010 Update
The National Opinion Research Center has released the 2010 data for the General Social Survey, so I have done a preliminary update of my previous charting of the history of public support for space exploration, from 1965 to the present.
If the numbers hold, the change from 2008 to 2010 indicates an increasing “partisanship” around space exploration program support, with increases in the number of respondents who say too little is being spent, as well as increases in the number who say too much is being spent. (The number of “baby bears” in the middle has decreased). This would be consistent with the current highly polarized situation around national space policy and the cancellation of the Constellation moon/Mars program. The net change (+0.7% per year) is essentially no different than for the preceding decade of slow-but-steady gains in support.
The focus of the increased antipathy towards the space program can be seen by plotting the “NATSPACY” variant of the GSS survey question, which asks only about spending on “space exploration” (no use of the word program). Whether this is tied to the new space policy, or to the broader economic situation in the country, it is noteworthy that the “too little” respondents increased in 2010, suggesting that space exploration overall, while still a “niche” priority, is not losing mind-share.
Note: The Berkeley interactive browser for the GSS (which also includes some weighting corrections) has not yet been updated with the 2010 data, so the numbers here are preliminary and reflect the unweighted counts.