Support for fracking has recovered from a record low in the spring, according to results from the latest government attitudes survey. Opposition has fallen from a previous record high.
The quarterly Wave tracker survey showed levels of support returned to 15%, last reached in September 2018. But the proportion of people who support fracking remains at less than half those who oppose. 47% neither support nor oppose.
The survey, for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), was conducted in June 2019 when no fracking was being carried out in the UK. It was before Cuadrilla announced it was returning to frack at Preston New Road, near Blackpool, and before Aurora Energy Resources said it would be submitting plans to frack at Altcar Moss near Formby.
Support for fracking
Support for fracking rose to 15% from the record low of 12% in March 2019. Strong support for fracking remained unchanged at 2%.
Why do people support fracking?
Supporters of fracking interviewed for this survey appeared to be less influenced by industry arguments that UK shale gas would reduce dependence on other fossil fuels and energy from other countries. Both these reasons for support fell.
But the argument that fracking would have a positive impact on climate change appears to have had some traction. The proportion giving this reason for supporting fracking rose in the latest survey.
- Need to use all available energy sources 37% (up from 35%)
- Reduces dependence on other fossil fuels 24% (down from 33%)
- Reduces dependence on other countries for UK energy 22% (down from 26%)
- May result in cheaper energy bills 21 (unchanged on the previous two surveys)
- Positive impact on the UK economy 16% (down from 17%)
- Positive impact on climate change 12% (up from 7%)
According to the latest results, 35% of participants opposed fracking, down from the record of 40% in March 2019. The level of opposition is now back to that reached in December 2018.
Strong opposition to fracking also fell. The latest figure was 12%, down from a record of 16% in March 2019, and back to the level of September 2018.
Who opposes fracking?
As in previous surveys, the results found that opposition was higher among people who knew more about fracking and lived where there were licences to explore for shale gas.
Among people who said they knew a lot or a little about fracking, 49% said they opposed it, compared with 18% who supported.
Opposition toward fracking was also higher among people:
- Living in Scotland (47%), south west England (44%), Yorkshire and the Humber (41%), and north west England (40%)
- In social grades AB (42%, compared with 27% of those in social grades DE)
Why do people oppose fracking?
The latest figures indicate less concern about the risk of earthquakes compared with the previous survey but more about the loss or destruction of the natural environment. There was also an increase in the proportion of people saying they opposed fracking for reasons about climate change and other sources of energy.
- Loss or destruction of natural environment 64%, (up from 57%)
- Risk of contamination to water supply 23% (unchanged from previous survey)
- Too much risk/uncertainty 20% (down from 26%)
- Risk of earthquakes 36% (down from a previous record level of 45%)
- Not a safe process 23% (down from 29%)
- Use of chemicals 15% (down from 16%)
- Should focus on renewable energy 21% (up from 17%)
- Negative impact on climate change 20% (up from 17%)
Neither support nor oppose
47% of participants neither supported nor opposed fracking. This was 2 points up on the previous survey and back to levels last seen in December 2018.
4% said they did not know whether they supported or opposed, up 1 point on the previous survey.
Of the people who said they knew less about fracking, 77% neither supported nor opposed it. Among this group, support was 10% and opposition was 13%.
78% of participants were aware of fracking for shale gas. This was unchanged on the previous two surveys.
12% said they knew a lot about fracking (down 1 point from the previous survey). 48% said they knew a little (up 3 points) and 17% were aware (down 2 points). 22% said they had never heard of fracking, unchanged on the previous two surveys.
BEIS said awareness of fracking was highest among:
- Men (82%, compared with 74% of women)
- People aged 65 and over (90%, compared with 61% of those aged 16 to 24)
- People in social grades AB (87%, compared with 65% of those in social grades DE)
- People with household incomes of £50,000 or more (87%, compared with 71% of those with household incomes under £16,000).
- People living in south west England (90%), north west England (88%) and Wales (87%) compared with east England (64%) and London (65%)
Data for the survey, Wave 30, were collected from 5-16 June using face-to-face in-home interviews with a representative sample of 4,231 adults (aged 16 and over) in the UK. Interviews were carried out using the Kantar UK Omnibus, which uses a random location quota sampling method.