People generally believe that there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe but are skeptical that there is any life on Mars.

Last Thursday. NASA reported that its Mars rover Curiosity has found no evidence – after a year of looking -- that there is any life on Mars.  Curiosity found no methane, a gas that might indicate the presence of microbes.  The latest Economist/YouGov Poll finds just 14% of the public clinging to the possibility that there is life on the red planet.

That’s not much different than the percentage that believed life existed on Mars in a 1997 CBS News Poll conducted about the time of NASA’s Mars Pathfinder mission.  That mission also found no signs of life on the planet, too.  The most skeptical in this week’s poll are college graduates and those 65 years or older.  However, in the current poll, more said they were unsure than said so in 1997.

That doesn’t mean that Americans have given up on finding intelligent life somewhere in space, even though they doubt it exists on Mars.    Nearly half say there is intelligent life somewhere in space, while just one in five is sure there isn’t.

Many aren’t sure one way or the other, so most Americans seem willing to believe life somewhere other than earth is possible, if not likely.  Older Americans are the most skeptical; men are more willing than women to believe.

Most Americans would allow NASA to continue to explore space, with a third saying that the Space Agency’s budget should increase.  Just 23% want to cut NASA’s budget.

And in these days of austerity and cries to cut discretionary spending (many coming from the GOP side of the aisle), space exploration interests Republicans and Democrats alike.  In fact, more Republicans than Democrats want to increase government funding for space exploration.

Full results can be found here.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.

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