Who supports the space program?

I just listened to a radio segment on public sentiments toward the Apollo space program expenditures in hindsight. The polling had a small N, 3 people in Los Angeles on the street. But it got me wondering: who supports the space program? There is a variable in the GSS, NATSPAC, with a large sample size, which states:

We are faced with many problems in this country, none of which can be solved easily or inexpensively. I'm going to name some of these problems, and for each one I'd like you to tell me whether you think we're spending too much money on it, too little money, or about the right amount.

I limited the results to between 1998-2008. Below are the demographic trends.


Now, sorted....


The secular, the intelligent, the educated and males exhibit inordinate support for a space program. In contrast, blacks, women, the stupid and the extreme poor (that is family income below $25,000 in the past 10 years) are skeptical of funding for the space program. I was surprised by the lack of difference in political clusters, with even a slight tilt toward liberals. I've heard the "rockets vs. butter" argument in public forums from Left-leaning individuals many times. In particular I recall as a child being annoyed at Joseph P. Kennedy for making a crass speech on the floor of the House of Representatives in this vein, suggesting that people starve on earth so that rockets may orbit above us.

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I've seen "man on the street" interview footage from near the time of the landings, I'm almost sure it was afterward, where people were doing butter/rockets. These peeps rock my world. Landing on the moon didn't impress them at all. They are possibly more amazing than the moon landing itself.

By Eric Johnson (not verified) on 21 Jul 2009 #permalink

I don't support rockets or butter, in that context.

What do economists think about the Apollo expenditures, and why? I'd like to know whether there are any viable claims that the Moon missions were successful from a practical, economic perspective, since they did little for science and their political benefit is questionable.

I'd have to admit the costs weren't trivial; they were rather large. The political benefit would be awfully hard to pin down: I can imagine being persuaded that it was great, or that it was negligible. In response to the libertarian argument I can only ask, is there any possible question this was the most glorious objective/external act ever done? To my mind only the voyages of the mystics could be greater.

By Eric Johnson (not verified) on 21 Jul 2009 #permalink

I am surprised that the spread is so small. This seems to be one area where most people more or less agree.

It would be interesting to know what things other than space the doubters would prefer the government to spend money on.

Personally, though I am libertarian I think the money on Apollo was well spent. The engineering was stupendous, and that has had effects across the economy.

People don't know how much money gets spend on space.
You could ask people:
How much do you think the government does spend on space?
How much do you think the government should spend on space?

Then you can see how much people just think that space gets a lot of funding and are opposed to space research on that ground.

By ChristianK (not verified) on 09 Aug 2009 #permalink

The space program brought together great minds, gave them a vision and a task. From there, ignorance was rolled back on a grand scale. The contributions to daily quality of life as well as the economy are literally immeasurable. What is the point of being the cleverest critter on the planet if you don't use that advantage to an advantage? I suppose we could have used that money on the Great Society initiatives of the mid 60's. Given the results of that experiment, I think the space program was cheap. How much economic/human development or technology/education came out of the Great Society initiatives?

I had to chuckle at the fact more liberals than conservatives thought too little was spent on space. There is such a stereotype that liberals think that spending will improve things.

I'm a huge fan of the space program, in fact if it wasn't for it we wouldn't have the technology and scientific discovery from it. The Apollo Program did wonders to our technology, only an idiot would dispute it. We've explored as far as Neptune, its the new ocean and its time we sailed it!

By Kyle Denny (not verified) on 24 Aug 2009 #permalink