Fracking opponents are most likely to be women, aged 45-64, doing managerial or professional work and living in rural areas, according to the latest findings of an ongoing government survey of public attitudes to shale gas.
The results, released today, again suggest that the more people know about fracking the more likely they are to oppose it. The most frequently stated reason for opposition to shale gas was the threat to the natural environment.
The survey, part of the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s Public Attitudes Tracker, found that support for fracking was highest among men and people aged over 65.
Overall, opposition to fracking (29%) was higher than support (21%). But the largest proportion of people surveyed were neither opposed nor in favour (44%).
The findings are based on interviews with more than 2,000 people in December 2015. Since the last survey, support for fracking was unchanged, opposition fell slightly and people who were neutral or didn’t know rose.
The survey found that opposition was highest in the following groups:
- Social grade AB (professional and managerial staff) – 39%
- People aged 45-54 – 36%
- People aged 55-64 – 38%
- People in rural areas – 33%
When asked why they opposed fracking, the most common reason given was “loss/destruction of the natural environment” (61%). The next most commonly given reasons were: “the risk of contamination of the water supply” (32%) and “too much risk and uncertainty to support at present” (25%).
The survey concluded:
“Support for fracking appears to be inversely linked to awareness, as those who know more about fracking tend to be more likely to oppose it”.
“There is more opposition than support amongst those who know a lot about it (53% vs. 33%), and know a little about it (40% vs. 26%).
“For those who are aware of it but don’t really know what it is, the stances are even (both 18%)”.
Opposition has risen gradually since the question was first asked in December 2013.
The survey found that men are more likely to support fracking than women (28% against 17%). Older people also tend to support fracking. 32% of people aged over 65 said they were in favour.
The most commonly given reasons for supporting fracking were: “needing to use all available energy sources (35%); “reducing dependence on conventional fossil fuels” (34%); and “reducing dependence from other countries for UK’s energy supply (32%).
Support has fallen since the question was first asked in December 2013.
The gap between opposition and support narrowed slightly since the last survey was carried out.
Neutral or don’t know
Almost half the people questioned said they were either neutral or didn’t know.
Amongst people who said they were only aware of fracking or hadn’t heard of it, 60% said they were neutral or didn’t know.
74% of people surveyed were aware of shale gas. This is down slightly on the previous survey (77%).
Of those questioned this time, 15% claimed to know a lot about it, compared with 43% who said they knew a little and 16% who were aware but didn’t know what it was.
Awareness was highest among the following groups:
- Over 45s (87%)
- Social grade A-B (92%)
- Men (81%)
- People on incomes over £35,000 (87%)
- People in rural areas (81%)
2,121 households were interviewed face-to-face for this survey, Wave 16, between 9th and 13th December 2015 using the TNS UK omnibus. For the first time, participants were asked why they supported or opposed shale gas.
Friends of the Earth energy campaigner, Tony Bosworth, said:
“This is yet another blow to government attempts to bulldoze its fracking plans through the planning process.”
“The government’s PR campaign is clearly failing: the more people know about fracking, the more likely they are to oppose it – which is why it wants to take democratic decision-making away from local people.”
“Ministers must abandon their fixation with dirty fossil fuels and focus on renewables which are cleaner and far more popular with the public.”
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Updated at 13.30 on 2/2/16 to include reaction by Friends of the Earth