KRQE Poll: Albuquerque voters skeptical Spaceport flights will take off

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) –  Sir Richard Branson’s vision of commercial space flights out of New Mexico’s Spaceport is still a work in progress.

KRQE News 13 asked Albuquerque voters: “Do you think Virgin Galactic will ever fly out of the Spaceport?”

Forty-four percent said “no” — twice as many who still believe space flights at $250,000 per seat will lift off. One-third of voters remain undecided.

UNM Political Science Professor Gabe Sanchez said the poll reflects initiatives by previous leadership that have not come to fruition.

“I think the fact that a third of the sample, 33 percent, are still undecided on that issue gives you some standpoint that a lot of the public is just pessimistic overall; maybe a little cynical,” political analyst Gabe Sanchez said.

Spaceport CEO Dan Hicks says there’s no question the flights will happen after all of the proper training and test flights.

“To build a capsule, a beautiful spaceship that takes people into the space of microgravity and then come back and land is a very challenging, complex endeavor. [Virgin Galactic is] well on their way to doing flight tests, finishing their flight tests,” Hicks stated. “They’re getting ready to go to their boost phase which is where they were when they had the tragedy back in 2014, and then they’ll be ready to start flight operations when they get final certification from the FAA.”

Since the Spaceport opened in 2011, the hope has been to start commercial space flights to boost business.

“I think a lot of people that you polled would be happy a year from now to hear their boost phase is on schedule and their actual flight operation will start shortly after,” Hicks said.

Sanchez says as for this election cycle — and based on the poll results — this is not the project to use as a big campaign promise, considering people’s lack of confidence in our government getting it off the ground.

“Everybody wants to be bold and come out with their new, big project. But I think they have to be strategic here and recognize that the public might not be hungry for another big Virgin Galactic project,” Sanchez said.

New Mexico and Oklahoma were the first to have licensed spaceports. There are now 10 of them, plus another 10 states looking to build and grow the $330 billion commercial space industry.

Dan Hicks says Virgin Galactic is building two more spaceships for additional research and astronaut training.

 

Polling Methodology & Results

For this poll, a sample of likely households was chosen from the population registered to vote in the city of Albuquerque for a “hybrid” automated (for landlines)/live (for cell phones) poll, where 74 percent of the phone numbers were landlines and 26 percent of the phone numbers were cell phones. There were 500 completed responses to 11 poll questions.

The survey was conducted August 26-27. The margin of error, with a 95 percent confidence interval, was 4.4 percent. The party registration of respondents was 52-34 percent Democratic/Republican (14 percent Independents). The geographic breakdown of the respondents was as follows: 52 percent from northeast Albuquerque, 19 percent from northwest Albuquerque, 22 percent from southeast Albuquerque, and 7 percent from southwest Albuquerque (The dividing lines for these four quadrants of Albuquerque are the (east/west) Rio Grande and (north/south) Interstate 40).

 

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