Opposition to fracking reached 44%, a record high, in the latest government survey of public attitudes to shale gas.
Support for fracking was at the lowest level since the question was first asked nearly six years ago.
For the first time in the survey, the proportion of opponents was higher than people who said they neither supported nor opposed fracking.
The survey, for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), was conducted in September, less than a month after fracking was suspended at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site near Lancashire because of a record-breaking earth tremor.
Since the previous survey in June 2019, Aurora Energy Resources submitted a planning application to drill and frack two wells close to the village of Great Altcar, near Formby in west Lancashire.
Opposition to fracking
Both total opposition and strong opposition reached record highs in this survey.
Total opposition (44%) was almost 10 percentage points higher than in the previous survey in June 2019 (35%) and 13 percentage points higher than the figure a year ago (31%).
The previous record high, of 40% was in March 2019.
Opposition to fracking, according to the survey is highest among people in social grades AB (53%, compared with 37% in social grades DE).
Regionally, opposition was highest in Scotland (60%), Wales (53%), and north-west England (52%) and lowest in the west midlands (32%) and north east England (34%).
Strong opposition reached 19%, up seven percentage points on the previous survey (12%). The previous record high had also been in March 2019 (16%)
Why do people oppose fracking?
Risk of earthquakes reached its highest figure since the question was first asked nearly four years ago. This was up 12 percentage points on the previous survey in June 2019.
But concerns about loss or destruction of the natural environment remained the most frequently given reason for opposing fracking.
- Loss or destruction of natural environment 57% (64% in June 2019)
- Risk of earthquakes 48% (36% in June 2019)
- Risk of contamination to water supply 22% (23% in June 2019)
- Too much risk/uncertainty to support 20% (20% in June 2019)
- Not a safe process 26% (23% in June 2019)
- Should focus on developing renewables 16% (21% in June 2019)
- Negative impact on climate change 18% (20% in June 2019)
- Use of chemicals in the process 16% (15% in June 2019)
Support for fracking
Total support for fracking – at 11% – was the lowest recorded in the survey. It was down 4 percentage points from the previous survey (15%) and down 18 percentage points from the highest level recorded in March 2014 (29%).
The previous low in March 2019 (12%) corresponded with another record high for opposition to fracking.
The proportion of people who said they strongly supported fracking fell to 1%, down from 2%, a level held in the previous five surveys where the question was asked.
The highest ever level for strong support was 6%, recorded when the question was first asked in December 2013. 1% strong support was previously recorded in the survey two years ago.
Why do people support fracking?
In the reasons given to support fracking, there were increases for need to use all available energy sources and reduce dependence on other fossil fuels.
Other reasons saw falls including won’t affect me/my local area and may result in cheaper energy bills.
- Need to use all available energy sources 40% (37% in June 2019)
- Reduces dependence on other fossil fuels 31% (24% in June 2019)
- Reduces dependence on other countries for UK’s energy supply 23% (22% in June 2019)
- May result in cheaper energy bills 17% (21% in June 2019)
- Good for local jobs and investment 24% (20% in June 2019)
- Will have a positive impact on UK economy 10% (16% in June 2019)
- Will have a positive impact on climate change 10% (12% in June 2019)
“The more you know, the less you like it”
Among people who said they knew a little or a lot about fracking, 59% opposed, 8% supported and 28% did not know or did not express an opinion.
Among people who said they didn’t know what fracking was or had never heard of it, 20% opposed, 8% supported and 72% said did not know or did not express an opinion
Total awareness of shale gas remained at 78%, the figure recorded in the previous four surveys.
According to the survey, awareness of fracking was highest among:
- Men (84%, compared with 73% for women)
- People aged 55 and over (89%, compared with 63% for people aged 16-24)
- People in social grades AB (92%, compared with 65% for people in social grades DE)
- People living in south west England (88%) and Scotland (87%), compared with people living in London (61%)
Opinions appear to have widened since previous surveys
The gap between opponents and supporters reached a record 33%, up from 20% in June 2019.
People who said they neither supported nor opposed fell to 43%. This is a record low, last seen four years ago.
In all previous surveys, the proportion of people who said they neither supported nor opposed was the largest percentage.
The main reason for neither supporting nor opposing fracking was not knowing enough about it (77%).
There was also a fall in the proportion who said “don’t know”
Data for the survey, Wave 31, is based on 4,201 face-to-face in-home interviews with a representative sample of UK adults aged 16 and over on 11-22 September 2019.
Interviews were carried out using the Kantar UK Omnibus, which uses a random location quota sampling method.
All charts use data from the Wave 31 survey by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy