More than a third of people oppose fracking for shale gas while just under a quarter support it, according to the latest data from a government survey released this morning.
The survey, carried out in September 2020, is part of the quarterly Wave Tracker of public attitudes for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis).
The findings are almost unchanged from a previous similar survey conducted in June 2020.
These surveys, and one in March 2020, were conducted using an online panel because of the Covid-19 outbreak. The results cannot be compared with those from surveys carried out between December 2013 and December 2019, where data was collected face-to-face.
No high-volume fracking has been carried out in the UK since August 2019. Regulators suspended operations at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site in Lancashire when they caused the UK’s strongest fracking-induced earthquake.
In the September 2020 survey, 36% of participants opposed fracking. This was the same as the June 2020 survey but down from 42% in the March 2020 results.
Strong opposition in September 2020 was also unchanged at 18%.
The results showed that opposition to fracking was highest among those with greater knowledge of it. Almost half (47%) of those who reported knowing either “a lot” or “a little” about fracking opposed it
The main reasons for opposing fracking were:
- Loss/destruction of the natural environment (61%, down from 63% in June 2020)
- Risk of earthquakes (59%, unchanged from June 2020)
- Too much risk or uncertainty (56%, up from 53% in June 2020)
- Not a safe process (57%, up from 51% in June 2020)
- Risk of contamination of water supply (53%, up from 50% in June 2020)
In the September 2020 survey, 24% of participants supported fracking. This was down one percentage point on the June 2020 survey.
Strong support was unchanged at 6%.
According to the results, support for fracking was higher among men (31%, compared with 17% of women) and those in social grades AB (30%, compared with 20% in social grades DE).
Most of the reasons given for supporting fracking saw falling numbers in September 2020, compared with June 2020.
The main reasons for supporting fracking were:
- Need to use all available energy sources (52%, down from 55% in June 2020)
- Reduce the dependence on other fossil fuels (44%, down from 52% in June 2020)
- Reducing dependence on other countries for UK energy supply (47%, down from 52% in June 2020)
- Positive impact on the UK economy (47%, down from 50% in June 2020)
- Will have a positive impact on climate change (29%, down from 35% in June 2020)
Neither support nor oppose
29% of participants neither supported nor opposed fracking. Another 11% said they didn’t know.
Both these results were one percentage point higher than in June 2020.
The main reason given for neither supporting nor opposing fracking in September 2020 was not knowing enough about it (46%).
The survey found that 89% of participants were aware of fracking for shale gas. This was unchanged on the result in June 2020.
According to the findings, men were more likely to report some awareness of fracking than women (93% compared with 85%). Awareness was also higher in people aged 65 and over than 16-24 year olds (96% compared with 82%).
Data for the survey was collected using the Kantar online omnibus from 2 September and 8 September 2020 from a representative sample of 4,033 adults (16 and over) in the UK.
What should the survey find out in future?
Beis is seeking views on the future of the survey when the current contract expires in May 2021, after two more surveys.
Users of the data are asked to respond to a consultation. Questions include which topic areas should be in the survey and how people use the data. The deadline for responses is 30 November 2020.