Opposition to fracking has reached a record high of 45%, according to a quarterly government survey of public attitudes.
Data released this morning shows that opposition was up from 41% in the previous survey in December 2019 and 40% for the same time a year ago.
Support for fracking fell to a new record low of 8%. Just 1% of those surveyed strongly supported fracking.
The research, for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), was conducted in March 2019. The fieldwork was carried out before the coronavirus lockdown. But it was stopped early because of the outbreak and the sample size was smaller than previous recent surveys.
Total opposition to fracking rose to 45%, up four percentage points on the survey in December 2019 and one on the previous record high in September 2019.
Opposition to fracking has shown an increasing trend, from a low of 21% when the question was first asked in December 2013.
Strong opposition to fracking rose to 18%, up from 16% in December 2019. The record level for people who strongly opposed fracking was 19% in September 2019.
According to the survey data, opposition to fracking more likely among:
- Men (47% compared with 42% for women)
- People aged 55-64 (57% compared with 34% aged 16-24)
- Social grades AB (54%, compared with 34% for people in grades DE)
Why do people oppose fracking?
Concerns about loss or destruction of the natural environment remained the main reason to oppose fracking. The risk of earthquakes remained above 40% for the third consecutive survey. This followed seismic activity induced by fracking at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site in August 2019.
In the March 2020 survey, more people said they were concerned about the risks of the process, the impact on climate change and the use of chemicals.
- Loss and destruction of natural environment 57% (64% in December 2019)
- Risk of earthquakes 45% (46% in December 2019)
- Risk of contamination to water supply 19% (18% in December 2019)
- Too much risk/uncertainty to support 18% (14% in December 2019)
- Not a safe process 27% (24% in December 2019)
- Should focus on developing renewables 15% (16% in December 2019)
- Negative impact on climate change 18% (14% in December 2019)
- Use of chemicals in the process 15% (12% in December 2019)
Total support for fracking fell to a record low of 8%. This is two percentage points down on the previous survey, itself a record low.
The level of support was down four percentage points on data from a year ago in March 2019 (12%).
It marks a declining trend in support for fracking from a record high in March 2014 (29%).
Why do people support fracking?
The need to use all available energy sources remained the reason most widely mentioned for supporting fracking. But there was increases in March 2020 in the people who mentioned “reduces dependence on other fossil fuels” and “reduces dependence on other countries for UK energy”.
- Need to use all available energy sources 36% (37% in December 2019)
- Reduces dependence on other fossil fuels 34 (26% in December 2019)
- Reduces dependence on other countries for UK’s energy supply 27% (21% in December 2019)
- May result in cheaper energy bills 22% (23% in December 2019)
- Good for local jobs and investment 23% (22% in December 2019
- Will have a positive impact on UK economy 16% (17% in December 2019)
- Will have a positive impact on climate change 14% (11% in December 2019)
The gap between support and opposition in March 2020 also reached a record of -37%.
This was up from -31% in December 2019 and the previous record of -33% in September 2019.
The proportion of people who neither supported nor opposed fracking was stable at 45%. This was up two percentage points on the record low in September 2019 (43%). The record high was 50% in September 2018.
According to the data, the main reason for neither supporting nor opposing fracking was not knowing enough about it (75%).
People aged 16-24 were less likely to have an opinion (58% compared with 35% aged 55-64 and 38% for people aged 65 and over).
The survey found that 78% of participants were aware of fracking. This has remained stable since December 2018.
10% of people said they knew a lot about fracking and 22% said they were aware but didn’t really know what it was. 22% said they had never heard of it – this figure has also been stable since December 2018.
The survey found that awareness of fracking was higher among:
- Men (84% compared with 72% for women)
- People aged 55-64 (92% compared with 62% for people aged 16-24)
- People in social grades AB (89%)
- People who were very or fairly concerned about climate change (82% compared with 65% who were not very or not at all concerned)
Data for the survey, Wave 33, is based on 1,851 face-to-face in-home interviews conducted with a representative sample of UK adults aged over 16. Fieldwork was conducted from 11-17 March 2020 on the Kantar UK Omnibus which uses a random location sample approach.