Questions on attitudes to fracking dropped from quarterly government survey

Wave 26 public attitudes

For the first time since 2013, a quarterly public attitudes survey for the government has not asked questions on whether people support or oppose fracking.

The latest findings, published this morning, cover only whether people were aware of the process.

Previously, 18 surveys for the Wave public attitudes tracker had asked whether people supported or opposed fracking for shale gas and by how much. It also asked people why they supported or opposed.

The survey is commissioned by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Before the most recent survey, BEIS carried out a review.  Its response to the review, also published this morning, said questions about shale gas would now be asked annually, rather than quarterly, starting in April 2019.

It said:

“We will not be amending these questions at this stage but will continue to review them to ensure its reliability and value to the department and users.”

Questions about renewable energy remained in today’s survey results but there was not a question about attitudes to nuclear. This will also be asked annually.

A spokesperson for BEIS told DrillOrDrop:

“Following public consultation, we have amended the Public Attitudes Tracker (PAT) to reflect the department’s broadened policy portfolio following its transition from DECC to BEIS.”

“This approach will allow us to ask more topical focused questions on areas such as consumer issues or employment rights to a wider range of respondents.”


According to data from previous surveys, support for fracking had fallen since a record high of 29% in March 2014. Most recently, there were two consecutive increases in support. Opposition reached a record high last summer (36%) and, as usual, dropped slightly in the winter.

Wave 26 support

Wave 26 oppose

In the previous survey, carried out in March-April 2018, support for fracking stood at 18% of participants and opposition at 32%. People who neither supported nor opposed stood at 47% and people who “didn’t know” was 4%. 2% of participants strongly supported fracking and 13% strongly opposed.

In March-April 2018, the main reasons for supporting shale gas were: Reduce dependence on other countries for energy supply (36%); need to use all available energy sources (35%) and reduce dependence on other fossil fuels (31%).

The main reasons for opposition were: Loss or destruction of the environment (57%); risk of contamination to water supply (31%); too much risk or uncertainty (28%); risk of earthquakes (29%)


Today’s results did include questions about the level of support for renewables.

82% of participants said they supported renewables, with 37% strongly supporting. 4% opposed renewables, with 1% strongly opposing. 13% neither supported nor opposed and 1% didn’t know.


Wave 26 Awareness 1

On shale gas, the survey found that 78% were aware. This was up slightly on the previous figure of 76%.

14% of participants knew a lot, up from 12% in the previous survey.46% knew a little, also up from the previous survey (42%). 18% said they were aware of shale gas but did not really know what it was. 22% had never heard of it, down slightly from 24% in the previous survey.

Wave 26 Awareness 2

As with previous surveys, the most recent findings showed that awareness of fracking was higher among people aged 55-64 (91%), in social grade AB (90%) and with household incomes of £25,000-£34,999 (88%).

BEIS said awareness was also highest among people living in Northern Ireland (88%) where there is a presumption against fracking.


Keith Taylor, Green Party MEP for south east England, said:

“Ministers have been asking the public whether they support fracking on a quarterly basis for over four years. But, despite a huge PR push, opposition has always outstripped support—which has never exceeded 30% and long languished below 20%.

“How have the Conservatives responded to such a consistent rejection of the climate-destructive industry? By stopping asking what we think so often and giving fracking the green light in the meantime. While, at the same time, pushing through plans to cut our local government representatives out of the decision-making process.

“For all it’s rhetoric, you couldn’t ever accuse this Government of caring about ‘the will of people’. More and more, Britain is being governed by corporations for corporations; the people don’t get a look in.”


The Wave 26 tracker carried out 4,268 face-face in-home interviews with a representative sample of adults aged 16+. Fieldwork was conducted from 11-17 July 2018 on the Kantar TNS Omnibus. The questionnaire was designed by BEIS and Kantar Public.

Updated  at 11.40am with information and link to government consultation response to the Wave tracker and to include reaction from Keith Taylor.


48 replies »

    • Desperate desperate times for an industry that has repeatedly failed to get the support of the people.
      Obviously dropping the question is going to end up with even more bad PR for them.
      Does the person who proposed the ‘drop the question’ approach actually get paid for that ridiculous suggestion?
      And then there is the question of the panel that agreed to that ridiculous suggestion.
      You could be mistaken for concluding that those who came up with this mad idea could actually be antifrackers when you consider the negative press that will come from this.
      The more desperate they get the more preposterous their ideas.

  1. Exactly. Don’t like the answer remove the question! I have written to ask them why they have dropped the specific question. Hopefully others will do the same. I am sure I will get some mumbo jumbo back. It is obvious to many that opposition to fracking is growing especially among those who are aware of the impacts and that a huge percentage favour the move to renewable energy solutions.

  2. They doubled the sample size and withdrew the question they don’t like the answer to. Democracy in action!

    • The doubling of the sample size seems quite strange to me – to get a 95% confidence level with a confidence interval interval of +/- 5% (which is normal for commercial research) from an adult population of about 55 million, would only require a sample size of 384. And they asked households not individuals. The increase in “accuracy” would hardly seem to justify doubling the sample size here , although I guess it may allow them to stratify the answers better.

      I will be very interested to learn what they give as a reason for discontinuing the questions on shale gas. It’s not as if we tax payers are not interested in the responses is it?

      • Hi Refracktion Within the past hour, the government has published its response to the consultation on the Wave tracker. It said the fracking questions would now be asked annually – not quarterly as before. This will probably begin April 2019. I’ve updated the post and included links. The increased sample size would allow the survey to pick out regional variations, BEIS said.

        • Response from BEIS (also added to post):“Following public consultation, we have amended the Public Attitudes Tracker (PAT) to reflect the department’s broadened policy portfolio following its transition from DECC to BEIS.”

          “This approach will allow us to ask more topical focused questions on areas such as consumer issues or employment rights to a wider range of respondents.”

        • Thanks Ruth – as I supposed the increase in sample size was about stratification then. But how odd to ask the question about knowledge of what fracking is but not about support. That really doesn’t make sense does it?

  3. Greater knowledge of shale gas equals an increase of support for shale gas…

    Within the next 5 weeks everybody will be aware of the benefits of U.K Shale gas…

    Thanks for the article DOD…

    • Why do you 5 weeks? Cuadrilla hasn’t finished packing up their rig or set up fracking operations. They have a warning from EA and have not addressed those problems. They are very much inept in their operations. They haven’t fracked and dont know the flow rate after 6 months of flow.
      So it is crazy to suggest they can demonstrate the benefits od shale within the next 5 weeks.

      • TW, good questions…

        The Rig is down and the official statement is that they will frack before the end of September.

        As Phil states Cuadrilla have enacted the EA Recommendations.

        As for Operations they are extremely Professional and your opinion is your own, I am sure you will appreciate the product they supply to your gas boiler for many years to come.

        Upon initial flow of gas it will be required to be monitored for a number of months to ascertain the manifold size and subsequent export pipes to grid connection (these will be subterranean, no visual impact)

        As for demonstrating the benefits in the next five weeks, news of gas flow and commencement of monitoring Ops will prove a major boost to the economy of the Country which has seen an increasing amount of imported gas year on year brought to our shores. This will justify The Labour Partys decision to issue exploratory drilling licences for the greater good of the Country. ie people who like warm houses, hot showers and piping hot food. Lower energy bills also…

    • Kisheny – hardly!

      This is from 2016 but it has been a consistent picture over the last few years – the more people find out they less they seem to like it. I wonder why that might be?

      “More than half (53%) of those who said they knew a lot about fracking were against it, compared to a third (33%) who said they were in favour of it, the latest poll tracking attitudes to energy policies has revealed.

      Among those who thought they knew a little about it, opposition outstripped support by 40% to 26%, the survey for the Department of Energy and Climate Change found.”

    • Kisheny. “Greater knowledge of shale gas equals an increase of support for shale gas.”
      “BEIS said awareness was also highest among people living in Northern Ireland (88%) where there is a presumption AGAINST fracking.

  4. How can 22% of the respondents have never heard of shale gas and fracking? Is there enough room for them in their cave at the top of a mountain?

  5. So, only around 14% know a lot about fracking, but previous surveys show over 30% are against it. Some of those 14% will be pro. Therefore, maximum 10% know a lot about it but 30%+ oppose it!!!

    Having been a keen observer of DOD discussions for the last couple of years, it simply confirms that there are many who oppose it who are not that well informed. Shock/horror.

    “Quite shocking really”? No. Pretty obvious, and very instructive that the most important piece of data presented within this survey is missed totally by the antis who have commented, so far. But, always the case. Far better to excite a grievance than to deal with the facts.

    The minority shrinks even further when examined.

    • Lol. Very good point Martin…..Good observation. So most of the anti frackers know little about fracking. They just blindly follow other anti frackers. Hahahaha

    • “Some of those 14% will be pro” – of course but very few it seems – people strongly supporting fracking were only 2% last time, and those who say they know about fracking are far more likely to oppose than support in general. Nice try, but is that really the best you can manage?

  6. So, digging a bit further, in the Government response to the consultation it says:

    “Consultation respondents use the tracker to track public opinion, help inform decisions, support research, provide evidence for investment proposals, raise community awareness, and provide evidence for campaigns. Their most important questions are those on shale gas, support for renewable energy/technologies/nuclear energy, attitudes towards electric vehicles and worry about energy bills.”


    “When it came to amendments , consultation respondents were particularly concerned about any changes to fracking questions. However, they approved of changing the question on ‘worry over energy bills’ to an open question. BEIS has decided to retain the shale gas questions and keep them under review”


    “The most important questions in the survey, for the 25 respondents who answered this question, were:

    • Question 15 a- e: Shale gas awareness, support/opposition, reasons for support/ opposition (7 responses)
    • Question 3,12,13: Support for renewable energy/technologies (7 responses)
    • Question 14: Support for nuclear energy (3 responses)
    • Question 10: Attitudes towards electric vehicles (3 responses )
    • Question 16: Worry about energy bills (3 responses)”

    Faced with responses that make it clear that the questions on shale gas are perceived as the most important ones in the whole survey, and in the face of continually developing policy and protest about shale gas extraction, it is quite ridiculous that in response the BEIS decide to limit the frequency of asking the questions from quarterly to annual. (see P14 of the consultation response)

  7. So, if it isn’t 10%, then it might be 12%, refracktion!

    As, diversions go, that one isn’t going anywhere. But avoid the substance, and go for the diversion. Nobody will see what you are trying to do. Just re-arrange those deck-chairs.

    Oh, yes they will notice! Maybe even the 20% who do not know a lot about fracking but still oppose it and can do some maths., will not be blind to someone who does know a lot about it trying to manipulate them? Then, if the “product” is found to work, those individuals will recall how they were influenced to oppose, and will react accordingly. So, it might be just as well the support/oppose questions have been removed!

    • Er so by your logic if only 4 of the 14 % of those who know about fracking are pro then the other 14 of the 18% (yes it’s a very small number isn’t it) who claim to support fracking are being manipulated by people like you? Have I got that right Martin?

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