Entre Nous is in danger of developing an unhealthy obsession with Eurobarometer polls. The latest one to catch the eye, racing like a comet across the star-lit night sky, was a poll on attitudes to space – the final frontier.
The European Commission's department for enterprise claims that it shows that a majority of Europeans (77%) wants the EU “to play a role in a space monitoring system to manage disasters and crisis as well as mitigate the effects of climate change”.
This was hardly an involuntary thought. Those questioned were first (to soften them up) reminded that the US, Russia and China were developing space programmes. Then they were asked to say, for each of three activities (disaster and crisis management, detection of satellites and other space debris, and space exploration) by whom the activity should be developed: the EU alone, the member states that wanted to do so, the EU and the member states together, or none of them. On this basis, even space exploration “with humans or robots”, received 64% support for an EU role.
Aside from Malta's healthy disinterest in satellite navigation, what caught Entre Nous's sceptical eye was that this was a “flash” poll, conducted over four days (9-12 July) by telephone. Flash polls are usually used to get quick, short-term responses.
Given that space policy is not the fastest-moving of policy areas (the satellites that the European space agency is launching this month have been a while in the making), the use of a “flash” poll is intriguing. Could it be that someone fears budget cutbacks?