Polls - Public still enthusiastic about NASA shuttle program

Monday, February 10, 2003

More than seven in 10 Americans say the space shuttle program is worth the risk in human life and should be continued, say polls taken after the disintegration of the shuttle Columbia killed its seven astronauts.

A CNN-Time poll out this weekend found that 71 percent said the shuttle program is worth the risk to the astronauts; a CBS News poll found that three-fourths of Americans said the shuttle should be continued; and in a poll by The Orlando Sentinel, three-fourths said the shuttle program was somewhat or very important to the nation's future.

A majority of people also say the shuttle program contributes a lot to the nation's sense of pride and patriotism, and about a third think it contributes a lot to science, the CBS poll found. Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed in the Sentinel poll said the shuttle program is worth the cost and 35 percent disagreed.

Most people said they were upset by the Columbia disaster, as they were at the time of the Challenger explosion 17 years ago. But the number who said they were "deeply upset" dropped from 63 percent in 1986 to 46 percent now, according to the CNN-Time poll.

They seemed relatively satisfied with the level now being spent by the government and were evenly divided on whether the government should spend the billions of dollars needed to build a replacement shuttle, the polls suggested.

The CBS poll of 831 adults was taken Wednesday and Thursday. The CNN-Time poll of 1,003 adults was taken Thursday. The Sentinel poll of 1,000 adults was taken Tuesday through Thursday. The polls had error margins of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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