Support for fracking in the UK has fallen to its lowest level, according to a regular public opinion poll for the government.
The latest Department of Energy and Climate Change quarterly survey puts support for fracking at 19%, the lowest since the question was first asked in December 2013.
According to the survey, opposition to fracking has again reached 31%, the highest level recorded.
As in previous surveys, the largest proportion of participants – in this case 46% – said they neither supported nor opposed shale gas. This is up slightly on the previous surveys and the same level as June 2015. 4% of participants said they did not know what they thought.
The proportion of participants aware of fracking stood at 74%, unchanged on the previous survey and fairly stable for the past two years.
There has been a general decline in the proportion of survey participants supporting hydraulic fracturing for shale gas since a peak of 29% in March 2014.
Of those who said they supported fracking, 29% said there was a need to use all available energy sources. 28% said it reduced dependence on coal and oil. But the proportion giving these reasons was lower in this survey than the previous one when the question was first asked (35%-29% and 34%-28%).
The proportion who said fracking would be good for local jobs and investment rose from 23% in the previous survey to 33% in this one.
Opposition to fracking has risen fairly steadily since December 2013, when it stood at the lowest recorded level of 21%.
In the latest survey, of those who said they opposed fracking, 54% gave the reason as loss or destruction of the natural environment. 33% said it risked contamination of the water supply and 33% said there was too much risk to support it at present.
Compared with the previous survey, when people were first asked why they opposed fracking, there have been increases in the proportion of people who said fracking was not a safe process (up from 21% to 34%) and that the UK should focus on developing renewable energy (19% to 25%).
Gap between support and opposition
The gap between supporters and opponents is at its largest since questions about shale gas and frackingwere first asked. In this survey, 12% more people opposed fracking than supported it.
The survey found that even though about three-quarters of people were aware of fracking, far fewer said they had a detailed knowledge.
12% said they had a detailed knowledge
42% said they knew a little
20% were aware but didn’t know what it was.
The survey said awareness was highest among the following groups:
- Social grade AB (88%)
- Aged over 45 (86%)
- On incomes over £25,000 (86%)
- Homeowners (84%)
The previous survey, published in February 2016, commented:
“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%).”
This survey concluded that lack of knowledge may explain why people did not support or oppose fracking. It said:
“Of those who were neutral or did not know whether they support or oppose fracking, for the vast majority this was purely down to not knowing enough about it (67%). In addition, some had never heard of fracking (12%), or were still making up their mind about it (10%)”.
2,105 adults aged 16+ were interviewed face-to-face for this survey, Wave 17 between 23 March 2016 and 27 March 2016 using the TNS UK omnibus. For the first time, participants who said they were neutral or didn’t know what they thought about shale gas were asked why this was.