July 1, 2015

Americans, Politics and Science Issues

Chapter 8: Attitudes on Space Issues

This chapter looks at the underpinnings of two attitudes related to space exploration. When it comes to government investment in the International Space Station, public views are influenced primarily by political factors and education. This pattern is in keeping with public views about government funding for science and engineering, more generally. When it comes to views about the place of astronauts in the future of the U.S. space program, men and women tend to diverge but there is little difference by education or political factors.

U.S. Investment in the Space Station

Views About the Space StationThe Pew Research survey asked: “Do you think the space station has been a good investment for this country, or don’t you think so?”

Some 64% of the public say investment in the space station has been a good investment, 29% say it has not.

Gender, Age, Race and Ethnicity

Majorities of men and women, whites, blacks and Hispanics, and all age groups say the space station has been a good investment for the country. Younger adults, ages 18 to 49, are more likely than those ages 50 and older to say the space station has been a good investment. There are no differences on this question by gender or race and ethnicity.

Views About the Space Station, by Education and Science KnowledgeEducation and Knowledge

Those who have attended college or hold a college degree are more likely to say the space station has been a good investment for the country. Those with a postgraduate degree hold views that are about the same as those without such training, however. And those with a college degree in a scientific field do not differ significantly from those with degrees in other fields on this issue.

Those with more knowledge about science are more likely than those with less science knowledge to say the space station was a good investment.

Investment in the Space Station, by Party and Ideology
Party and Ideology

There are no differences between party groups on opinion about the space station. But, liberals express more positive views than moderates or conservatives about the country’s investment in the space station.

Factors Associated With Views About Government Investment in Space StationMultivariate Analyses

A multivariate logistic regression finds that education is a significant predictor of views about investment in the space station with those holding a postgraduate degree (+0.13) as well as those holding a college degree (+0.13) more likely than those with a high school diploma or less schooling to say the space station has been a good investment for the country. Liberals are significantly more likely than moderates to hold a positive assessment of the country’s investment in the space station (a predicted difference in probabilities of 11 percentage points). Age differences in views about this issue approach but do not reach statistical significance at the 0.05 level. There are no significant differences by gender, party affiliation, race or ethnicity.

Human Astronauts and the U.S. Space Program

Views on Astronauts in the Future of U.S. Space ProgramThe Pew Research survey asked a question about the role of astronauts in the future as part of space exploration: “The cost of sending human astronauts to space is considerably greater than the cost of using robotic machines for space exploration. As you think about the future of the U.S. space program, do you think it is essential or not essential to include the use of human astronauts in space?”

A majority of the public (59%) says astronauts are essential to include in the future of the U.S. space program, while 39% say astronauts are not essential.

Gender, Age, Race and Ethnicity

Men are more likely than women to say human astronauts are essential for the future of the U.S. space program (66% vs. 52%, respectively).There are no differences in views about this issue by age, race or ethnicity.

Education and Knowledge

No Differences in Views About Astronauts in Future U.S. Space Program, by Education, Science Knowledge, Party or IdeologyViews about this issue are roughly the same among education groups.

Party and Ideology

There are no differences among party or ideological groups on views about the role of astronauts in the future U.S. space program.

Multivariate Analyses

A multivariate logistic analysis finds just a few significant predictors of views on this issue. Men are more inclined than are women to say astronauts are essential in the future of the U.S. space program, controlling for other factors (11 percentage point difference in predicted probability). And Democrats and those who lean to the Democratic Party are more likely than those with no party affiliation or leaning to say that astronauts are essential going forward (14 percentage point difference in predicted probability). There are no significant differences between Republicans and independents who lean to the GOP and their Democratic counterparts, however.

Factors Associated With Views About Astronauts in the Future U.S. Space Program