Balcombe effect continues with falling support for fracking

19th May 2014

Nine months after the Balcombe anti-fracking protests, their effect on public opinion is still being felt, according to research published today. The latest survey in a long-running study by Nottingham University into attitudes to shale gas and fracking has revealed a continuing decline in support.

The project leader, Professor Sarah O’Hara, told a fracking conference in London that support for the process in the UK had fallen below 50 per cent for the first time.

The latest survey interviewed more than 3,800 people this month and is the ninth in a series which began in March 2012.

Professor O’Hara said there had been a warming in public attitudes to fracking between 2012 and July 2013, which saw the start of protests at Balcombe focussed on Cuadrilla’s oil exploration site. “All the indications were that people were turning towards shale gas until then”, she said.

Since July 2013, there have been three consecutive surveys which have seen falling support for the idea that fracking should be allowed in the UK.

“Balcombe has a huge impact”, Professor O’Hara said. She added: “It will continue to play out as activists continue to bring it to the attention of the public.” Other key findings from the Nottingham survey:

  • Rising support for the idea that fracking is associated with water contamination
  • Growing rejection of the idea that shale gas is a clean energy source
  • Falling support that shale gas is a cheap energy and will lead to energy security
  • 45-50% of respondents uncertain about whether fracking will increase greenhouse gas emissions
  • Conservative and UKIP voters were more likely to support shale gas compared with liberal democrat and Labour voters
  • Women are more likely to be opposed to fracking than men
  • Older people are more likely to support fracking than middle-aged adults
  • Young people are equally divided in favour and against

Professor O’Hara said the arguments about the impact of fracking on greenhouse gases were not getting through to the public. “People are very confused”, she said.

She added that a lot of information about fracking was not in a palatable form. “There is a lot of scientific information but it is very difficult for the average person to get their heads round”, she said. “We have failed to get across information that people can use”.

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