More on public view of Mars missions + Update on Senate space policy committees

Here are more discussions of that survey of public views about human missions to Mars that I mentioned here earlier:

Trying to judge what such a poll means is problematic because the US public has always expressed conflicting views on space. A majority have a good feeling about it and support it in a general manner but they don’t think about space often and don’t see it, especially human spaceflight, has having any direct impact on them. When asked to rank space spending vs other priorities it is always at the bottom  of the list for most people.

I prefer to focus on the 10-15% of the public who always express very strong interest and support for spaceflight in such polls. Those 30-45 million people are more than enough to build a spacefaring community and industry. They just need to see that human spaceflight is affordable and in the coming years I expect that the burgeoning commercial spaceflight industry will prove that to be true.


An update on the membership of two Senate committees with big influence on NASA and US space policies: Senate committees get organized; Nelson and Cruz control space subcommittee – Space Politics

2 thoughts on “More on public view of Mars missions + Update on Senate space policy committees”

  1. Two facts to note:

    1) The poll was conducted by a PR firm, which Boeing and Explore Mars paid to produce certain results. Pollsters can produce just about any result they want, if they write the questions properly.

    2) The poll was conducted by email. People who happen to be Marsies are *much* more likely to respond to an email about Mars than people who are indifferent or opposed to Mars exploration.

  2. Yep, I pointed earlier to Stephen Smith’s posting that made those same points about the survey. The survey maker disputed them but I don’t think it matters that much. There is no perfect or even any sensible way at all to do a survey on a topic the public is both conflicted about and generally uninformed about. Every space poll I’ve ever seen is flawed in some way.

    Polls that ask direct questions about spending on NASA, for example, almost always show most people wanting NASA funding to stay the same or be cut. Only a minority want it increased. Yet a legitimate criticism of such polls is that most people have a greatly exaggerated view of how much is being spent on NASA. But if a survey includes some tutorial info on NASA funding, then it can be criticized as biasing the poll.

    A typical government program is influenced primarily by the size and passion of the plurality that is most affected by it. The majority of people just don’t pay that much attention to each program and polling them about that program won’t mean much. For example, a very small but extremely passionate plurality of people manage to keep farm support payments at an level that is enormous compared to their numbers. A poll on the farm support program will have little significance regarding its funding. The same is true of a poll on NASA funding.

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