Americans Applaud NASA despite Woes

By Gribbin, August | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 19, 1999 | Go to article overview

Americans Applaud NASA despite Woes


Gribbin, August, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Repeated setbacks have hit NASA lately - the Mars Polar Lander disappeared, the space telescope busted, and the manned mission to fix it faced repeated delays. Nonetheless, most Americans think the agency's working well.

That's the latest reading of public sentiment in the CNN-USA Today-Gallup Poll, which last week queried 1,037 adults about such disparate public issues as the military policy regarding homosexuals, the fate of the 6-year-old Cuban boy at the center of a custody battle, President Clinton's job performance and favorites in the 2000 presidential race.

Without making reference to the space agency's recent series of miscues, pollsters asked respondents to rate NASA's performance as "excellent, good, only fair, or poor." Fifty-three percent rated the agency's work as good or excellent (13 percent); 43 percent said its work is fair (31 percent) or poor (12 percent). Five months ago, 64 percent called NASA's performance good or excellent.

Asked whether "government spending on NASA" should be reduced or stopped, most (65 percent) said no. Sixteen percent would give it more money while 49 percent would give the agency what it now gets. Thirty-four percent want spending on the agency reduced (24 percent) or ended (10 percent).

Most Americans (56 percent) back the continued use of unmanned missions to explore Mars.

However, support has waned for the national policy regarding gays in the military. In January 1994, 60 percent of the public backed the policy that barred asking those in the service whether they were homosexual but prosecuted them if they revealed their homosexuality and engaged in homosexual activity. Now, 50 percent support the policy and 46 percent oppose it.

Thirty-five percent of those opposing the policy said, "Gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military." Just 8 percent said gays should be rejected for military service.

Most people (68 percent) are closely following the fate of young Elian Gonzalez, the young boy involved in a tug of war between Cuba and the United States. Cubans wants him returned to his father there. But Americans are split over whether the boy should be returned or allowed to stay with his U.S. relatives.

Before eliciting that opinion, however, the survey quizzed respondents about Mr.

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