The latest findings from the government’s quarterly Wave tracker survey, published this morning, put support for fracking at 18%.
This is up one percentage point on the previous survey carried out in September/October last year but still 11 points below the highest level recorded.
Opposition to shale gas was 31%, down two points from 33% in the previous survey. This was the highest level recorded so far.
The research, for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), saw a fall in people who said shale gas would result in cheaper bills and bring local jobs but a rise in people who said it would reduce dependence on overseas energy supplies.
It also found there had been a fall in people who thought fracking was an unsafe process but a rise in people who thought it would risk water contamination and destroy the natural environment.
The latest survey is the first since the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, approved Cuadrilla’s plans to frack at Preston New Road near Blackpool. But it was carried out before the company began work at the site.
The proportion of people who strongly supported shale gas was 3%, up one point from the previous survey but down from the high of 4% in March 2016.
People who were strongly opposed remained at 11%, as in the previous survey, but down from a high of 14% in March 2016.
The gap between people who support and oppose was 13 percentage points, down from the highest level of 16% in September/October 2016.
The proportion of people who neither support nor oppose rose to 49%, up one point from the previous survey. People who said they didn’t know what they thought was 3%, also up one point.
Awareness of shale gas fell slightly to 75%, down from a record of 79% in September/October 2016. People who have never heard of shale gas rose to 25% in December 2016, from a record low of 21% in September/October 2016.
BEIS said that although many people were aware of fracking, only a small proportion claimed to have detailed knowledge. At Wave 20, 12% claimed to know a lot about fracking, while 42% said they knew a little, and 21% were aware of it but did not really know what it was. Awareness of fracking was higher for those in social grade AB (87%), aged over 45 (86%), with incomes over £35,000 (86%), and home owners (85%).
Reasons for support
- Need to use all available energy sources – 27% (down from 37%)
- Reduce dependence on fossil fuels such as coal and oil – 27% (down from 29%)
- Reduces dependence on energy from other countries – 33% (up from 24%)
- May result in cheaper energy bills – 20% (down from 25%)
- Good for local jobs and investment – 23% (down from 32%)
- Positive impact on the UK economy – 23% (up from 15%)
Reasons for opposition
- Loss or destruction of the natural environment – 58% (up from 54%)
- Risk of contamination to water supply – 27% (up from 22%)
- Too much risk and uncertainty to support at present – 23% (down from 31%)
- Risk of earthquakes – 20% (down from 21%)
- Not a safe process – 19% (down from 28%)
Wave 20 was carried out by TNS BMRB for the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy. Fieldwork was carried out 14-18 December using face-face interviews at home with a representative sample of 2,138 adults aged 16+ across the UK.