Fracking support still trails opposition but gap is closing – latest government survey

Summary attitudes

The latest findings from the government’s quarterly survey of attitudes to fracking shows levels of support continue to lag behind opposition but the gap appears to be closing.

The survey, published this morning, puts support at 19%. This is one percentage point up on the previous survey and the second consecutive rise. But current levels of support remain 10 percentage points below the peak.


Opposition now stands at 30%. This is down a point on the previous survey and the second fall since the peak in opposition of 33% in September-October 2016.


The Wave tracker survey for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), puts the gap between support and opposition at -11%, a continuing fall since the biggest difference of -16% in autumn 2016.

Gap between support and opposition

The survey saw rises in the proportion of people who said there was a need to use all available energy sources and that fracking would be good for local jobs. The most frequent reason people gave to oppose fracking remained loss or destruction of the natural environment. The survey also saw large rises in people who felt fracking was not safe or opposed it because of the use of chemicals.

The latest survey is the first since work began on Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road near Blackpool.

The proportion of people who strongly support fracking has remained stable at 3%, while the proportion who strongly oppose rose one point to 12%.

Strongly supportStrongly oppose

The proportion of people who neither support nor oppose remained unchanged from the previous survey at 49%. The proportion of people who said they didn’t know what they felt about fracking or shale gas fell one percentage point to 2%.

neither support nor oppose

Don't know


Awareness of fracking has remained fairly constant since December 2013, with about three-quarters of participants saying they knew about the process.


The survey recorded the lowest figure so far (10%) of people who said they knew a lot about fracking. The proportion who said they knew a little about it was 46%, the highest figure recorded so far. About a quarter of participants said they had never head of fracking or shale gas.

BEIS said awareness of fracking was higher for those in social grade AB (90%), aged over 55 (87%), with incomes over £35,000 (88%), and home owners (85%).

Reasons for support

Reasons to support

  • Need to use all available energy sources – 35% (up from 27% in December 2016)
  • Reduces dependence on other fossil fuels – 28% (up from 27%)
  • Reduces dependence other countries for UK’s energy supply – 31% (down from 33%)
  • May result in cheaper energy bills – 27% (up to 20%)
  • Good for local jobs and investments – 30% (up from 23%)
  • Will have a positive impact on the UK economy – 21% (down from 23%)
  • Will have positive impact on climate change/meeting carbon reduction targets – 10% (unchanged)

Reasons to oppose

Reasons to oppose

  • Loss/destruction of natural environment – 56% (down from 58% in December 2016)
  • Risk of contamination to water supply – 32% (up from 27%)
  • Too much risk/uncertainty to support at present – 29% (up from 23%)
  • Risk of earthquakes – 29% (up from 20%)
  • Not a safe process – 32% (up from 19%)
  • Use of chemicals in the process – 24% (up from 16%)
  • Should focus on developing renewable energy – 20% (up from 15%)
  • Negative impact on climate change/meeting carbon reduction targets – 18% (up from 17%)
  • Should focus on developing other energy sources – 15% (up from 9%)


The data for the survey – Wave 21 – was collected between 29 March and 2 April 2017 using face-face in-home interviews with a representative sample of 2,180 households in the UK.


Survey details, summary and data set

19 replies »

  1. The elephant in the room is the red line. You may as well add that figure into the support line . Vocal activists will always be the minority preaching to the majority and who have the cheek to assume they are morally and intellectually superior, look at Labour at present. I group them as ‘fake intellectuals’. Will be interesting to see the election results.

  2. So-70% either support or have no opinion either way. Only 30% oppose.

    Yet, continuously on this site we see commentary about the majority of the public oppose! Welcome Diane, and thanks for the help with our maths. education. (Hope the private school for your son has helped him put two and two together.)

    What will be interesting to see is this same survey AFTER gas has been produced successfully. We all (both sides) know what it will show and that is what is now driving this “debate” into desperation territory.
    Off for my sabbatical (again) until we reach that stage (shortly) when I would expect some serious consideration returns.

  3. Just wait for the local county election results today and see how the anti fracking parties go. That is the true and better reflects of the public sentiment I think. Especially in fydle and North Yorkshire. If the anti fracking candidates win then yes the majority of local do take fracking as their pressing issues.

  4. “Oil price plunges on over-supply fears.”

    This is the trump card (excuse the pun.)

    When someone feels inclined to calculate what petrol prices would be in UK now if USA had NOT fracked, and carries that through to an extrapolation into gas for industry and domestic use, public interest will become a great deal more active and focused. The fact this card has not been played indicates the exploration companies are quite happy with progress, and production of gas will enable them to start producing real costings.

    • Statoil have been supplying us with the majority of our oil and gas imports for decades.

      They know exactly what the UK needs and what price we will pay.

      They have made it quite clear that after advice from Chesapeake that they would not be investing in UK shale.

      When the worlds elevenths largest oil and gas producer, with full access to the UK markets, takes advice from one of the worlds largest shale gas producers then what they decide is obviously based on sound economics.

      Statoil are however expanding their offshore production. A thirty year project in their Mariner field. An investment of £4.5 billion.

      Their Hywind Pilot floating wind Park representing the next phase of offshore wind power generation which will see wind prices drop even further and open up new areas for wind exploitation.

      Even Centrica who have modest investment in UK shale state that production costs would not cover current market value.

      People are being presented the facts. They are making informed decisions.

      The science and the economics show that there is no place in the UK for an onshore unconventional oil and gas industry.

      Time to move on and not get left behind.

      • Isn’t it in Statoil vested interests to advise not to take interest in UK shale since they are supplying UK with their own gas which uk shale is trying to replace. John your agenda is clear for all to see.

      • As time passes and oil prices drop the environmental risks of fracking and the economic value of shale rears it’s head.

        A simple emerging pattern.

        The most recent to consider fracking are the ones who are rejecting it.

        I cannot understand why the UK doesn’t patent the ‘no risk gold standard’ system which apparently makes every site safe and economical.

        Sat on top of such large reserves, Maryland could afford billions of dollars to use the patent. New York would be interested to.

        The US put a man on the moon but apparently the UK will show the Americans how to frack successfully.

        Preese Hall 1 really showed the UK ‘Gold Standard’ at it’s best.

  5. TW-you have to remember this is the crazy economics that John (and others) believe we are too ignorant to understand.(Wonder why Ineos are willing to invest £500m in UK shale?) Goes with “thousands of wells across the country, no gas will be produced economically” type of illogical mixed message.
    George Osbourne became desperate as well, and followed the same path. Once we arrive at this point, the result is guaranteed.

  6. Anti frackimg Labor is getting hammered at the local elections today so it doesn’t look like fracking is the prime issues for many local councils. It is a concern one must admit but not the primary local issues as the eco warriors make it out to be.

    • TW, fracking as you know, hasn’t gained a footing yet in the UK, it’s still in its very early infancy.

      At the several places where its tried, it’s faced fierce and unparalleled levels of opposition by a public majority that have been heavily against it.
      It is therefore quite reasonable to assume that the this % increase of opposition will rise with each new application.

      It may not be the prime issue for most councils at the moment, but it will be as more and more councils are faced with this unwanted industry.

      The people do not want it.

  7. I agree TW. It will obviously be a concern whilst detailed economic benefits are sparse, locally and nationally. Once we move past that situation, the public will support far more. Apart from benefits to the individual, easy calculations can be made around taxation from UK production compared to no UK taxation from overseas production. Link that to items like £2 billion still to be found for Social Care (as starters) and the public will see less need for their individual taxes to rise to pay for that as more taxation to be received from corporations. (Yes, it has to be collected-from both sectors.)

    If all the negatives the antis promote were facts, then the simple effective approach would be let the tests sites progress and they will show the strength of the argument when it all goes pear shaped. The desperation in attempting to stop ANY exploration with ANY means, shows the reality is they know the outcome will be quite different.

  8. Sorry to burst your bubble Jack, but take another look at this piece of research. It shows 100% that “the people do not want it” is fake. Just like the politician who states “everyone is in favour” of something and you know you were not asked and you certainly would not be.

    I suppose it all depends on your definition of “the people”.

    • I agree Martin, any survey can be heavily steeped in favour, for or against a particular type of project depending on the particular preferred outcome of the sponsors . It’s just a matter of asking the questions certain way, to a particular type of people living in a certain area.

      Ask people living certain areas of the South of England, they may see the benefits of fracking in the North of England .. Those living up here in the desolate North will certainly not…..

      I speak as a person who has witnessed first hand the strength of public feeling against the failed Igas project at Barton Moss, Manchester.

  9. Interesting that the undemocratic pro fracking Con gain control of Lancashire county council election today. This is used to be under Labour control. So once again fracking is no the primary concern for the local at the frontlune of fracking. The Con Tory even gained seat majority in West Sussex and North Yorkshire where fracking is under spotlight and where anti fracking candidates are most active.

  10. Fully understand Jack, BUT actually produce gas and oil in those locations and then show the locals the financial benefits and the whole equation changes. There are plenty of examples in the UK that show that already and fracking, or conventional oil extraction, is no different. Try putting a steel works or coal mine in a location. You will find the initial reaction is very different to 50 years later when you try and close them. Even Nimbyism disappears when financial benefits are established. You refer to Barton Moss, but equally, Wytch Farm shows exactly the opposite. The locals were not different species, just one was a successful project the other was not. That will always be the case, but not an excuse to have any sort of moratorium..

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