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  1. Hi Ruth, I was interested to know if you will be posting an article with the big news coming out of the Yorkshire Post? I am writing, of course, about the poll in Yorkshire which showed that a majority of residents agreed with the government for going forward with fracking.

    This is newsworthy because the anti-fracking community has so vociferously maintained that they have a “massive majority” in local communities who do not want fracking to go ahead. They have produced scant evidence to support their contention, just thousands of letters written to local councils to oppose planned fracking operations. Those letters obviously do not speak for the silent majority which is cautiously optimistic about fracking and its potential to bring jobs, wealth, growth, cleaner air, and more energy security.

    Because this news will come as such a monumental surprise to the majority of your readers, I think you should definitely consider posting it. Of course, you will pepper the story with excuses from the anti-fracking mafia, but this is to be expected. Your readers will still get the point! Thanks!

        • Thanks for the link and Ruth will follow this up with the Yorkshire Post.

          We try to be careful using opinion polls. Among the issues we consider are:

        • were those polled “self-selected” i.e. did they fill in a form on a web page, or were they selected by a polling company in an attempt to give a balanced representation of the population as a whole?
        • What question was asked? – how a question is phrased can change the result
        • How large was the sample size?
        • The latest government survey, dated July 31st had nationwide support at 21% with opposition at 31%. You can read the details here.

          Professional pollsters interviewed 2,114 selected households.

          We’ll talk to the Yorkshire Post next week and see how their poll was conducted.

          Thanks again for the tip.


          • Well, Paul, you sound like you are very careful in that respect. I am glad to hear that.

            But have you paused to consider the biases inherent in the national poll? The truth is that these issues are too complex to be measured with an overly simplified poll question.

            And, yes, that applies to the YP post poll too.

            Asking whether or not people support shale gas or wind turbines doesn’t provide any worthwhile information. When asked the question, the typical respondent pictures a fracking rig on one hand and a wind turbine on the other. A wind turbine is more appealing to most people and that is a fact, but what is the relevance of this fact? What respondents do not consider is the fact that for every well pad, the country would need somewhere between 87 to 348 wind turbines, taking up from 1,450 to 5,800 hectares of space (depending on well density per pad) according to the late David Mackay. What they also might not consider is that all of those wind turbines will need a backup power source with energy to feed that source. They also would likely not consider the fact that promoting more reliance on wind power will make their electricity bills more expensive and could destabilize the grid. Were these practical realities introduced to the polling, the “popularity” of wind power would undoubtedly suffer.

            Very few people are in favor of industrial operations. There’s simply not a lot to like about a chemical manufacturing plant, a high voltage electric line installation, or a gas well-pad. People generally don’t “support” these plants, but they do support the goods and services that they supply. If high voltage electric distribution lines were only installed in areas where there was a majority of public support, the country would literally be a mess.

            Because the issues are so complex, and because public opinion is highly sensitive to manipulation, I don’t think much of any polls. The only point in bringing this one to light is that it does indicate that there is a significant amount of people who trust that the government is trying to act in their best interests, and is not going to compromise anyone’s health or well-being. This group isn’t vocal, they don’t write letters, and they don’t go to rallies. Whether they are a majority or not, I’m not sure. But I do sense they are a bit sick of all the games that the anti-frackers play.

            • Hi hballpeen.
              Thanks for your comments on this issue. I got in touch with the Yorkshire Post yesterday and put the following questions to the paper:
              • How many people took part in the poll?
              • Were participants in the poll self-selecting (anyone could take part) or were individuals invited by a polling company based on their characteristics to give a weighted representative sample?
              • Did participants have to register to take part?
              • What procedures where there, if any, to prevent one person voting multiple times?
              I contacted the paper again today and the Head of News replied: “This is something that we will struggle to provide because we don’t have the resources”. She confirmed that the paper could not answer any of my questions. As a result, I can’t verify how many people took part in the poll, how they were selected (if at all) or whether some people took part more than once.
              I am currently working on a piece about surveys on public attitudes so I will refer to this poll in the piece.

              • Perhaps it should be mandatory for all polls to guarantee that they are based on a weighted representative sample. Otherwise they are no more than worthless PR.

  2. Then of course you need to look at the record of corporate money going into paying off councilors and local press in various regions that they operate – to spin the dogma about shale drilling being non-harmful and only beneficial. Any money changing hands in those ways should also be out in the open. It’s a bigger game than people imagine. There are some wonderful accounts of how exactly this happens – from both the US and Australia, and also, if you watch the Blackpool/nanny documentary it now seems evident that it’s already happening in the UK .. not to mention the high level, high pressure lobbying at government level.

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