Theresa May’s idea to give money to people living near shale gas sites has failed to convince a majority to support fracking, according to new research.
The proposal, reported widely a week ago, was introduced by the Prime Minister in a consultation into community benefits paid for from shale gas tax revenue (DrillOrDrop article).
A survey by YouGov for Friends of the Earth, published today, found that 33% of people would support fracking in their local area if individual households received a payment of up to £10,000. According to the research, 43% said they would oppose fracking despite the payment and 25% said they didn’t know.
The 10% gap between support and opposition is consistent with the government’s regular survey of general attitudes to fracking (DrillOrDrop report on the latest research). But the proportion of people saying “don’t know” is much lower than the latest government study.
If the YouGov findings could be compared with the government survey, it might suggest the proposal for fracking payments has resulted in a shift in attitude from “don’t know” to both support and opposition.
Liz Hutchins, Friends of the Earth senior political strategist, said:
“The government are desperate to show support for shale gas exploration, and recent headlines that offered cash payments were meant to bolster, not diminish, support.
“But when you look at the details of the scheme, any cash for households would only be after shale exploration, and would be derived from taxation on profits. It all seems a pretty unlikely and distant proposition.
“What we do know is that the more people learn about fracking and what it could mean for their health and environment, the more opposed they could be. And it’s clear from this survey that they haven’t been fooled by the Government’s latest bribe.”
The YouGov research was carried out last week, after the government’s announcement. Last month, before the announcement, ComRes carried out a similar survey for the consultancy, Remsol. (See DrillOrDrop report on Remsol proposals for a community benefit scheme published last week.)
Alternatives to shale
ComRes, for Remsol, asked people about their general attitudes to shale gas and alternative energy projects, including solar farms, onshore wind, nuclear and biomas. It also asked people about their preference for community benefits linked to energy schemes in their area.
According to ComRes, total support for shale gas extraction, regardless of community benefit, was lower than any other choices. Opposition to shale gas was the second highest of the choices, just behind a nuclear power plant.
ComRes asked people to rank their preferences for types of community benefit payments from shale gas revenues.
The most popular choice was reduced local energy bills. The least popular was giving money to local councils. The charts below show the proportion of people who put a type of community benefit in their top three choices.
Like other surveys, both YouGov, for Friends of the Earth, and ComRes, for Remsol, found support for shale gas was highest among the over 65s. Both polls found that opposition was highest among people aged 50-64.
Men and women
Both YouGov and ComRes confirmed previous research which found that men were more likely than women to support shale gas and less likely to say “don’t know”.
These findings suggest that supporters of fracking may need to persuade women to move from “don’t know” to support to achieve a majority in favour.
YouGov found men were slightly more likely to support fracking than oppose it if payments of up to £10,000 were offered.
Both surveys recorded the highest opposition to fracking was in Scotland. ComRes, for Remsol, found opposition was higher than support in all UK regions.
ComRes interviewed 2,028 UK adults online between 8th and 10th July 2016.
YouGov interviewed 1,704 UK adults on 11-12 August 2016.