WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' views about landing an astronaut on Mars have shifted, with a majority now favoring the idea for the first time since 1969 and 1999, when majorities opposed the idea.
The latest figure comes as President Donald Trump has committed to a manned Mars mission. In his Fourth of July speech, the president said, "We're going to be back on the moon … and, someday soon, we will plant the American flag on Mars."
Gallup first asked Americans about attempting to land astronauts on Mars in 1969, shortly after the U.S. accomplished the same feat on the moon. At that time, just 39% were in favor and 53% opposed. A subsequent update on the 30th anniversary of the moon landing found public opinion had changed little, with 43% in favor and 54% opposed to going to Mars.
The recent increase in support for putting an astronaut on Mars is consistent with Americans' more positive views of the U.S. space program, just ahead of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.
As was the case 20 years ago, support for a manned Mars mission is highest among young adults aged 18 to 29 (65%) and lowest among adults aged 65 and older (46%). But support has increased substantially among older adults -- as well as younger adults, to a smaller degree -- thus boosting the national average.
Unlike many other issues, support for a Mars landing is similar across party lines. Fifty-five percent of both Democrats and Republicans support a Mars mission, with 52% of independents agreeing.
In 1999, Republicans were slightly more likely than Democrats to favor a manned mission to Mars -- though no group had majority support for such a mission that year. At the time, Democratic President Bill Clinton had smaller space ambitions than many other presidents who came before and after him; Clinton favored researching life on Mars, but only through a mission performed by robots.
The 53% of Americans who favor landing an astronaut on Mars may very well get their wish: NASA is working to put astronauts on the moon by 2024 as a waypoint to Mars.
Americans' support for this goal lines up with their views on NASA and its budget: Majorities of Americans rate the space program's performance positively and say its costs are justifiable. Further, most Americans want to see that budget maintained or even increased.
Additionally, U.S. scientific achievements top the list of sources of Americans' pride in their country. With patriotism at a low point in Gallup's trend, a successful Mars mission could help boost American pride.