New Poll Finds Most Americans Support NASA’s $10B Investment in James Webb Space Telescope

“Cosmic Cliffs” in the Carina Nebula

“Cosmic Cliffs” in the Carina Nebula (Photo: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI)

Were you enamored by the James Webb Space Telescope’s image of the glistening Carina Nebula? How about the revisiting of Hubble’s old stomping grounds? If your answer is yes, consider yourself in the majority—a new poll finds that NASA’s nearly $10 billion investment is well-liked by the American population.

The marketing and research company YouGov recently polled 1,000 Americans on their opinions of NASA and some of their most popular space programs. This poll was taken from July 14 to July 18, after the highly publicized release of JWST’s first full-color images of space stuff on July 12. It found that 70% of Americans have a favorable opinion of NASA. This majority crosses boundaries of political ties, with 72% of Republicans and 79% of Democrats both viewing the agency highly. It also concluded that the seven programs YouGov asked about, like JWST, were generally viewed as good investments.

The poll’s findings may not come as a surprise to anyone, since the American population has previously decided that NASA is vital. Pew Research Center’s poll from 2018 concluded that a majority of the American population says it is essential the U.S. remains a leader in space exploration and that NASA’s continued role is essential.

Another unsurprising result of YouGov's poll was that out of all seven programs, 80% of pollees agreed that GPS was a good investment. This is interesting to compare to the 70% that said the Hubble was worth it and the 60% that viewed JWST as worthwhile. It’s uncertain whether price tags were associated with each program in the poll, and if that would have swayed their opinions. The Hubble has cost a total of approximately $33.3 billion (adjusted for inflation to 2022 dollars) so far since its launch in 1977, including space shuttle operations. Compared to JWST’s cost at the time of its launch of $10 billion, and considering the fact that it is outperforming the Hubble, it’s puzzling to say the least why JWST garners a lower percentage in worthiness.

Only 6 years ago in May 2016, YouGov polled 4,747 Americans with the question, “Do you support or oppose the government spending more money on space exploration?” Only 51% were confident in saying they support it. By 2016, JWST had already been delayed twice, while Hubble orbited overhead for its 26th year, far exceeding its expected lifespan of 15 years. Perhaps what this new poll shows is a positive change of heart in the American public’s view of NASA’s worthiness, as well as a sense of nostalgia for JWST’s predecessor.

One thing is for certain though; respondents across the board loved JWST’s Carina Nebula image. In an open-ended question, most pollees described how “beautiful” and “amazing” the snapshot is. Some even “applauded NASA’s ongoing space exploration” and wrote how it has changed their understanding of the universe. Americans are “overwhelmed” and “astonish[ed] in the face of incredible beauty,” waiting with anticipation for more to come from the juggernaut JWST.

Scroll down to take a look at some of the newest images from JWST and follow the telescope's journey here.

A new poll from YouGov shows that a majority of Americans think favorably of NASA.

This poll was conducted after new full-color images from JWST were released, such as the First Deep Field.

James Webb Space Telescope First Deep Field Photo

Photo: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

It concluded that 70% of Americans believe that the Hubble was a worthy investment, while 60% believe JWST was.

One respondent commented, “Astonishment in the face of incredible beauty. A humbling image that reveals our insignificance,” after seeing JWST’s image of the Carina Nebula.

One thing is for certain: the public can’t wait to see more from the James Webb Space Telescope.

Stephan's Quintet

“Stephan's Quintet” (Photo: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI)

James Webb Space Telescope: Website | FacebookTwitter
h/t: [The Verge]

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