Public remain divided or undecided on fracking, government data shows
12 Aug 2014, 11:50Mat Hope
The public remain divided and undecided on fracking, with a small but growing minority strongly opposed to shale gas extraction, new government statistics show.
The poll comes just a day after an industry survey suggested a majority of the public supported fracking. That finding was widely covered in the media, including the BBC, Telegraph and Daily Mail, but is contradicted by this polling.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change today released the results of its latest poll tracking public opinion on energy and climate issues. It shows the public split over fracking, with the same proportion – 24 per cent – saying they support and oppose shale gas extraction.
The DECC poll is a tracker study, meaning it is repeated every few months. Support for shale gas appears to have fallen slightly since the poll was last conducted in March, when 29 per cent of respondents said they supported shale gas extraction.
There’s been a small increase in the number of people saying they “strongly oppose” shale gas extraction at 10 per cent, up from 8 per cent six months ago.
Perhaps more significantly, more than half of people surveyed didn’t have a strong opinion. 47 per cent said they “neither support nor oppose” extracting shale gas – and despite a lot of noise about fracking in the media, that proportion is largely unchanged on nine months ago. 26 per cent of people said they had “never heard of [fracking]”.
The poll has been released just a day after industry group UK Onshore Oil and Gas released its own poll, suggesting 57 per cent of the public backed fracking.
That poll was criticised by one polling expert for containing leading questions, potentially leading to skewed responses.
The advantage of the DECC polling is that it asks the same questions each time the poll is condicted, which is likely to lead to a more accurate tracking of public opinion.
DECC’s poll also showed continued robust support for renewable energy, although approval levels fell compared with previous months.
DECC suggests this is down to “seasonal decline”. DECC’s data shows public support for renewables tends to fall in the summer, it says.
Overall support for renewables remains robust, however. 79 per cent of respondents said they supported the use of renewable energy sources to generate the UK’s electricity, fuel and heat, a similar proportion to March this year (80 per cent) and December 2013 (77 per cent).
Solar remained the most popular renewable energy source, with 82 per cent of people saying they supported the use of the technology to generate electricity.
Updated – Changed the word ‘indifferent’ to ‘undecided’, as we don’t know why people did’t express an opinion.