DrillOrDrop reviews recent public opinion surveys on shale gas
The long-running Nottingham University survey of public attitudes to shale gas extraction has recorded its lowest level of support for fracking. And for the first time in this poll, more people oppose than support shale gas.
The poll, by YouGov, was carried out before the Local Government Secretary overruled Lancashire County Council’s refusal of planning permission for fracking by Cuadrilla at a site in Lancashire.
The results, published today, show that support for shale gas extraction has fallen from more than 58% in July 2013 to just over 37% in September 2016. Opposition has risen from a low of 19% in July 2013 to 41% in September 2016.
The percentage difference between support and opposition has changed from more than 39% in favour in July 2013 to nearly 4% against.
The latest results also found:
- Associations of shale gas with water contamination rose to more than 49%, the highest level recorded
- Falling levels of people associated shale gas with clean energy
- Falling numbers thought shale gas would bring economic benefits or energy security
- Shale gas was the least acceptable energy source in the UK’s 2025 energy mix
- Increasing numbers associated shale gas with higher greenhouse gas emissions
Professor Sarah O’Hara, of the School of Geography at Nottingham University and co-director of the Shale Gas Survey, said:
“The drop in support for shale gas over the last 12 months suggests that concerns about the perceived environmental impacts of shale gas are beginning to outweigh the possible economic benefits.
“This drop is driven largely by women firming up their view on this issue and becoming increasingly opposed to shale gas. If the government pushes forwarded with its plans to fast track shale gas developments, it must be prepared for significant levels of opposition from grass roots activists.”
Professor Mathew Humphrey, of the university’s School of Politics and International Relations and co-director of the survey, said:
“This survey continues the developments that we have seen since the protests at Balcombe in August 2013. At that point, trends in public opinion went into reverse, and the UK public appears to have become rather more sceptical about the potential costs and benefits of shale gas”.
Ken Cronin, Chief Executive of the industry organisation UK Onshore Oil and Gas told The Guardian:
“We have long believed that once people get to see how little impact shale gas exploration has on the environment and communities then attitudes will swing strongly in favour.”
The Nottingham survey has consistently recorded higher levels of support for shale gas than the quarterly Wave Tracker for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, now Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The latest figures (July 2016) from that poll are: Support 21%, opposition 31%, don’t know or neutral 48%.
4,492 people took part in the latest Nottingham University poll by YouGov between 29 September and 3 October 2016. YouGov said participants were a nationally-representative selection of members of the YouGov panel. This is open to anyone to join and members who take part in surveys earn points which can be exchanged for cash.
Recent press coverage of the INEOS media tour of Pennsylvania referred to company surveys of attitudes to shale gas which found a majority of people in support.
The chemical industry website, ICIS.com, reported:
“At INEOS community events, 55% of people have been in favour of shale gas development with 15-20% neutral, according to company surveys.”
And Scottish Energy News reported, as an exclusive,
“A source close to senior INEOS management told Scottish Energy News: “In every opinion poll we run, it’s a two-thirds ‘yes’ to one-third against exploring for shale.”
INEOS told DrillOrDrop the surveys were “informal polling”. A spokesperson said the reports referred to two separate sources of information:
- Feedback forms filled in by 84 of the 136 people who attended four meetings for local councillors in Cheshire, Derbyshire and Yorkshire earlier this year
- Votes by 356 people in a voting box on the INEOS stand at the Royal Cheshire Show (two days) and the Malton Show (one day)
From the feedback forms, INEOS said:
46% supported shale gas exploration
35% were neutral
The voting box recorded
59.6% (212) supported shale exploration
25.6% (91) opposed
14.9% (53) were neutral.
We asked INEOS why its surveying got such different results from the government’s Wave tracker.
Gary Haywood, the Chief Executive of INEOS Shale, said:
“The informal polls we have done do show a higher level of support for shale gas than the Government Wave tracker survey. However, note also that the proportion who ‘oppose’ is broadly similar between the polls. That is, our polls show less people in the ‘neither support nor oppose’ category, and more in the ‘support’ category.
“Although we can only speculate, we believe that this is because when we talk to the public face to face about the issues involved in shale gas extraction, they very quickly understand that this industry is not the monster it is portrayed to be by others.
“Also, the people we survey are generally residents in areas where we will be working who have a greater interest in understanding the real issues than perhaps others included in a nationwide survey. Hence, it is possible that some of the ‘neither support nor oppose’ views are showing up as support in our poll.”
Two questionnaire polls of residents in prospective shale gas areas have, however, recorded different results.
Last month, a poll in the Cheshire village of Mickle Trafford, where IGas has bought land for shale exploration, found that of those who participated:
6.5% supported fracking
81.7% opposed fracking
11.8% did not know or didn’t have an opinion
The response rate was 63% of adults or 571 validated questionnaires. Questionnaires were posted to the homes of people in the parish. Completed questionnaires were posted or delivered to a collection point.
In May, another Cheshire village, Guilden Sutton, carried out a similar survey. This found that of the participants:
9.2% supported fracking
76.3% opposed fracking
14.5% did not know or didn’t have an opinion
The response rate was 75.6% of adults or 442 validated questionnaires. Questionnaires were posted to the homes of people in the parish. Completed questionnaires were posted or delivered to a collection point.
In February, Misson Parish Council carried out a survey of attitudes to IGas plans for explore for shale gas at Springs Road. Of the participants:
4% supported the IGas proposal
9% were undecided
The response rate was 76% or 396 residents
Yorkshire Post poll
Several DrillOrDrop readers pointed out an online poll by the Yorkshire Post, carried out a day after the Secretary of State‘s announcement on fracking in Lancashire.
This asked “Is the Government right to give fracking the go-ahead. The result was:
DrillOrDrop asked the Yorkshire Post
- 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?
The Head of News at the paper told us:
“This is something that we will struggle to provide because we don’t have the resources”.
She confirmed she could not answer any of these questions.
Yesterday, a survey by OnePoll for House Extension Online, revealed that a majority of Britons would be reluctant to buy a home near a fracking site.
1,000 people were asked: ‘Would you ever consider buying a house near a shale gas site?’ 64% said they would be reluctant. Of these, 21% said they would be somewhat unlikely and 43% said they would be very unlikely.
Respondents aged 45-54 were more unlikely to buy near a fracking site than 18-34 year olds (68% compared with 59%). Women were more unlikely than men to do so (63% compared with 54%).
When participants were asked if they would be for or against fracking if it reduced energy bills, 32% said they would be in favour and 31% against. Over-55s were the most likely to be in favour of fracking if it reduced bills (36%).
INEOS has not published the data from its informal polling