Government survey: Fracking opposition rises to new high while support falls to record low

Wave 29 summary attitudes

Results from the latest government survey on fracking shows that public opposition has risen to its highest level so far and support dropped to a record low.

The quarterly Wave tracker survey indicates that opponents regard fracking as a risky or unsafe process and are concerned about earthquakes and the impact on climate change.

The survey was conducted in March 2019 at a time when the shale gas industry was calling for a relaxation of regulations on fracking-induced earth tremors. There were also continuing discussions about government proposals to make non-fracking shale gas schemes permitted development, avoiding the formal planning process.


Wave 29 oppose

According to the latest results, 40% of participants opposed fracking, up from 35% in the most recent survey conducted in December 2018, and up from 21% in December 2013.

This survey saw the largest increase in opposition since it was first carried out and the third consecutive rise in opposition.

wave 29 strong oppose

Strong opposition was also at record levels, up to 16%, compared with 13% in the previous survey.

Who opposes fracking?

As in previous surveys, the results found that opposition was higher among people who knew more about fracking.

Among people who said they knew a lot or a little about fracking, 16% of people said they supported the process and 56% said they opposed.

Opposition to fracking was highest in north-west England (50%), Wales (49%) and Scotland (49%). It was lowest in London (30%), east England (31%) and the west midlands (32%).

Why do people oppose fracking?

Wave 29 reasons to oppose

The main reasons why people opposed fracking were:

  • Loss or destruction of natural environment 57%, (down from 62%)
  • Risk of earthquakes 45% (up from 40% after a previous rise from 26%)
  • Risk of contamination to water supply 23% (up slightly from 22%)
  • Too much risk/uncertainty 26% (up from 20%)
  • Not a safe process 29% (up from 24%)
  • Use of chemicals (up/down from 15%)

Support for fracking

Wave 29 support1

Support for fracking fell to 12% of participants, down slightly on 13% in the previous survey. This is the lowest level recorded by the survey so far and is 17 percentage points below the peak in March 2014.

Strong support for fracking remained unchanged at 2%.

Wave 29 strong support

The gap between support and opposition is now at its biggest so far. The 28% difference increased six percentage points from the previous survey and passed the previous high of 23% reached in September 2017.

Wae 29 gap

Why do people support fracking?

Wave 29 reasons for support

The main reasons people gave for supporting fracking were:

  • Need to use all available energy sources 35% (up from 34%)
  • Reduces dependence on other fossil fuels 33% (up from 26%)
  • Reduces dependence on other countries for UK energy 26% (up from 25%)
  • May result in cheaper energy bills (unchanged on the previous survey)
  • Positive impact on the UK economy 17% (down from 19%)

Neither support nor oppose

Wave 29 neither support nor oppose

45% of participants neither supported nor opposed fracking. This was 2% down on the previous survey and the lowest figure since December 2015.

Wave 29 don't know

3% said they did not know whether they supported or opposed, down one point on the previous survey.

The survey found that 77% of people who knew less about fracking said they neither support nor opposed it. Among this group, support was 6% and opposition was 17%.


wave 29 awareness

78% of participants were aware of fracking for shale gas. This was unchanged on the previous survey.

13% said they knew a lot about fracking (up 2 points from the previous survey). 45% said they knew a little and 19% were aware. 22% said they had never heard of fracking, unchanged on the previous survey.

According to the findings, awareness of fracking was higher among:

  • Men (82%, compared with 73% of women)
  • People aged 55+ (91%, compared with 58% of those aged 16-24)
  • Social grade AB (90%, compared with 64% of respondents in social grades DE)


Friends of the Earth clean energy campaigner, Jamie Peters, said:

“With support for fracking at all all-time low and overwhelming public concern about climate change, it’s time to pull the plug on this destructive, unnecessary and unwanted industry.

“Ministers must listen to the mounting scientific evidence on climate change, huge backing for renewable energy, and growing demand for tougher action.

“This means abandoning support for climate-wrecking fracking and fossil fuels and instead championing energy saving and power from the wind, waves and sun. This is what the science requires and the public demand. It’s time to stop dithering and get on with it.”

Daniel Carey-Dawes, Infrastructure Policy Manager at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said

“Not only does the government’s own survey demonstrate that public opposition to fracking has reached an all-time high, but support for this fossil fuel industry has also dropped to a record low.

“Almost one year later, the government has yet to respond to its consultation over plans to fast-track fracking, which would remove the voices of local communities in decisions over fracking proposals in their area. What further evidence does the government need in order to drop these proposals?

“At a time when the warnings about the severity of climate breakdown and the urgent need for decarbonisation are becoming more and more stark, it is beyond belief that the government continues to doggedly pursue their fracking agenda in defiance of public opinion.”

A spokesperson for Frack Free Lancashire said:

“The results are indicative of the battle the shale gas industry has faced since appearing in communities where they are not wanted. The long-term trends are clear: fracking is continuously and increasingly failing to win the support of communities, in spite of the intensive green-washing efforts by the industry.

“Support for renewable energy remains high, with 84% of respondents polled expressing support, and with strong support surging from 30% to 37%.

“With the damning report by the IPCC released last month, urgent global action to decarbonise is now needed. This also means there is no need or room for a new dirty fossil fuel industry like fracking.

“We require urgent political action on climate change and investment on clean energy sources if we are to mitigate the impending impacts of climate change.”


The fieldwork was carried out for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy from 13-24 March 2019 using the Kantar TNS Omnibus. The results of the Wave 29 tracker were based on face-to-face home interviews with a representative sample of 4,224 households in the UK.

The survey dropped a question on attitudes to fracking in July 2018 but reinstated it in September 2018.

83 replies »

  1. Oh dear! So we have a politician pontificating about energy policy now and that is believable!

    How did you get convinced to go diesel, delayed reaction??? Wasn’t that another politician pontificating about energy policy?

    “As we all know”-ermm, no-some were not convinced, and it turned out they knew better.

    Extra tax has the ability to solve fuel poverty. Perhaps Mr. Rhodes has made a start. Unfortunately, his contribution will probably be diverted towards the £100m plus of spending on an EU election.

    As far as Sir Jim is concerned perhaps he is aware this Parliament is doing absolutely zero about anything, and he is content to bide his time until there is a replacement for Clark in office? You antis got rather excited about the first day in Yorkshire. However, which team timed their race spot on? Ineos. Maybe a message there. Seems they like the idea of marathons.

    I suspect you do have loads more. All the same, all needing “everyone” and “we all” to try and justify. There is a noun for that, and you can find it a lot closer than Alberta. Or you can check the natural world to find many creatures who try and make themselves look more sizeable when they are challenged.

    But nice to see you are catching up on some of the previous substance There obviously is a delayed reaction, so maybe around Friday it will all become clear.

    • The Martian Chronicles lumber on… but sadly with nothing substantial to back up the claim – just more deflection and wind.

      You do realise that the chances of Clarke being replaced by another conservative are looking vanishingly small. In case you haven’t noticed UK politics is in meltdown and nobody is going to put their heads on the chopping board to help a moribund industry. Labour would ban fracking but don’t look capable of getting a majority any time soon. Greens likewise. Tories getting more luke warm on fracking by the minute and are about to break apart. Farridge doesn’t have any policies on anything except Brexit and even there his credibility is paper thin.

      The even more severely hung parliament we are heading for soon isn’t going to fracker friendly as it will have too much on its plate with internecine strife.

      Hey Martian – maybe you should stand in the next parliamentary elections – your manifesto would be a hoot if perhaps rather verbose and impossible for normal people to understand. Mind you it seems you don’t even need a manifesto these days. And you’d be great at filibustering in the house!

      BTW did you not notice that Monaco Jim’s entire “secret” press conference was dominated by the fracking issue? He must have been so pleased.

      Anyway – have you given up on trying to justify your fuel poverty claim with anything meaningful?

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