Monday, 13 January 2014
Fracking controversy and communication: Latest public perception survey
We all tend to like to read things that conform to our own opinions. It's therefore not unreasonable for me to assume that the majority of people reading this support shale development. Based on a recent paper from a group at Yale published in the journal Energy Policy, I can therefore assume that you are old, male, of right-leaning political ideology, with better than average formal education and qualifications, and preferring to get your news from television rather than newspapers.
Meanwhile, household income, race and 'individualistic world-view' do not have any correlation with support or opposition to drilling.
I should just make clear: these results apply to surveys conducted in the USA only.
Perhaps the most significant finding is the persistent lack of familiarity among the general public with fracking and shale gas development, despite continued media discussion of the subject. 39% or survey respondents had heard "nothing at all" about hydraulic fracturing, 16% had only heard "a little", and a further 13% answered don't know. This means that over 50% of the population are still very unfamiliar with the issue.
When "top of mind" associations with fracking were explored, 58% either didn't have any associations, or had associations that were irrelevant, such as references to BattleStar Galactica (a sci-fi series where "fracking" is used as a swear-word).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, 58% of respondents were undecided about whether they support or oppose shale gas development, with the remainder split fairly evenly between support and opposition, according to the social and demographic divisions outlined above.
So it seems that the public is still woefully uninformed about what shale development entails (and what it does not entail). Clearly, we have a long way to go.