Fractured debate – what the latest research says about hardening attitudes to shale gas

Support for fracking has declined over the past decade and opposition has become more deeply entrenched, a new study of public attitudes in the UK has concluded.

Findings of studies on public attitudes to fracking. Source: ASSIST project

The research, by academics at Exeter and Edinburgh universities, found that high awareness of shale gas, now about 80%, had not led to greater support for the process.

Trust in the shale gas industry has been very low and the debate about fracking had become increasingly polarized, the authors found. The more knowledgeable people were about fracking the more likely they were to hold stronger views, both for and against.

But while strong factions have become entrenched, the authors found, a significant minority of people remain undecided.

The study, by the ASSIST (Attitudes to Shale Gas in Space and Time) Project, examined four sets of national surveys carried out between 2012-2020. They included the government’s quarterly Wave Tracker, the most recent set of results of which were released today (see section below headed Latest government survey finds 34% oppose fracking). The researchers also used a multi-year survey for ASSIST. Unlike other surveys, this questioned the same people each time.

Key findings

Opposition to fracking reached 66% in the second ASSIST national survey, carried out in July 2020, up from 56% in the first survey in April 2019. Between the two surveys, the UK government imposed a moratorium on fracking in England after a series of earthquakes induced by the process in Lancashire.

The ASSIST surveys found 32% supported fracking in April 2019, falling to 24% in July 2020. The latest BEIS study has similar proportion of supporters of fracking but a much smaller proportion of opponents (see section below headed Latest government survey finds 34% oppose fracking).

The researchers concluded:

“Opposition to shale gas exploration has increased steadily since 2014 while support has more or less steadily declined.

“However, the percentage of respondents who do not support or oppose the practice remained the same at 45%, suggesting that many in the public do not have a strong opinion on the issue, despite extensive media coverage of the issue.”

Very low trust in shale gas industry

The ASSIST national survey in 2019 found that just 12% of participants trusted the shale gas industry and less than half (42%) trusted government regulators, such as the Environment Agency or Oil & Gas Authority.

People were more likely to trust university scientists (59%) or the British Geological Survey (61%), the survey found.

The authors said:

“This suggests the public has very little faith in the shale gas industry, but also reflects that less than half of the public trust the government on this issue as well.”

They said lack of trust may have contributed to public scepticism about shale gas and be the result of concerns about whether decisions on shale gas were made fairly.

The authors recommended:

“Policymakers and industry operators can respond to these research findings by creating spaces for information sharing and collaborative decision-making with the public, particularly those in potentially impacted communities. This may increase perceptions of trust and a sense of fairness and justice in decision-making.”

Who supports and opposes?

People who express opposition to shale gas have strong environmental values and associate shale gas with water contamination, earthquakes, and increased greenhouse gas emissions, the study concluded.

People who express support for shale gas are more likely to be male, to vote for the Conservative Party, and to associate shale gas with clean energy, cheap energy and energy security.

Changing arguments

The risk of earthquakes is one of the most prominent concerns about fracking in the UK, along with environmental degradation and a contribution to climate change, the study found.

Anti-shale gas discussion has focused on environmental risks, lack of trust in pro-shale actors, fairness, inclusion in the decision-making process, distribution of costs and benefits, local issues including lack of democratic opportunity for local decision making.

Discussion in favour of shale gas has focused on economic benefits, energy independence and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

But the researchers said the debate had moved beyond an argument of economics and energy security versus the environment and public health. Environmental reasons are increasingly cited by both supporters of shale gas and objectors.

Main sources of information

The 2019 ASSIST survey suggested that the main sources of information about fracking were environmental non-governmental organizations (48%), local or national television (44%), citizen action groups (40%) and broadsheet newspapers (36%).

Information about specific potential benefits of shale gas was not likely to lead to increased support, the study found.

Survey methods

The authors cautioned against drawing firm conclusions because of the different methodologies of the various public attitude studies.

They found that subtle differences in language could result in different results. But they concluded that the use of the term ‘fracking’ was no longer regarded as pejorative and had no impact on levels of public support.

What is still unknown or unclear?

The authors said more research was still needed on:

  • How the media, political commentary, industry positions and anti-shale group communication affect public attitudes
  • How much people rely on different outlets for information on shale gas
  • How opinions on shale gas vary across the country
  • How knowledge affects attitudes to fracking
  • Which issues on fracking most resonate with the public
  • Depth of public knowledge about fracking and how it could be increased

Latest government survey finds 34% oppose fracking

Source: BEIS Wave Tracker 36 December 2020

Publication of the ASSIST study coincided today with the most recent results of the quarterly Wave Tracker survey for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

This found that more than a third of participants (34%) opposed fracking, a quarter supported it and nearly a third (30%) neither supported nor opposed.

The survey, carried out in December 2020, is the most recent of three Wave Trackers conducted solely online because of the Covid-19 outbreak. The results cannot be compared with previous face-face Wave Trackers which have asked questions about shale gas since 2013.

In December 2020, support for shale gas was up one percentage point at 25% compared with the previous survey in September 2020. Opposition was down two points on the 36% recorded in the two previous surveys (June and September 2020).

The proportion of people who neither supported nor opposed fracking rose one percentage point in September 2020 and December 2020. People who said they did not know what they thought about the process returned to 10%, after a one-point rise in September 2020.

Source: BEIS Wave Tracker 36 December 2020

On reasons to oppose fracking, loss or destruction of the natural environment remained the largest, at 62%, followed by risk of earthquakes at 55%.

Concerns that fracking carried too much risk or uncertainty fell from 56% in September 2020 to 48% in December 2020. There was also a fall in the proportion who thought fracking was not a safe process (from 57% in September 2020 to 46% in December 2020). The argument that the UK should focus on developing renewable energy increased from 48% in September 2020 to 53% in December 2020.

Source: BEIS Wave Tracker 36 December 2020

The largest reason to support fracking was a need to use all available energy sources, at 56%, up from 52% in September. There was also an increase in the proportion who thought shale gas would reduce dependence on other fossil fuels (up to 48%, from 44% in September 2020). The proportion who said shale gas would have a positive impact on the UK economy fell from 50% in June to 43% in December.

BEIS reported that support for fracking was higher among men (33%, compared with 19% of women) and those in social grades AB (31%, compared with 20% in social grades DE). Opposition to fracking was highest among those with greater knowledge of it. Over four in ten (45%) of those who reported knowing either “a lot” or “a little” about fracking opposed it compared with 30% who supported it.

Source: BEIS Wave Tracker 36 December 2020

Awareness of fracking, at 88%, has also been steady since the online surveys started. One in ten (11%) said they knew a lot about it. Half said they knew a little. Just over one in ten (12%) had never heard of fracking.

BEIS said the people most likely to report some awareness of fracking in December 2020 were:

  • men (93%, compared with 84% of women)
  • older people (between 96% and 97% of those aged 55 and over, compared with 77% of those aged 16 to 24)
  • people in social grades AB (93%, compared with 83% of those in social grades DE)

The Wave 36 survey was collected using the Kantar online omnibus with a representative sample of 4,022 people aged 16 and over in the UK from 3-8 December 2020.


Briefing: Public Perceptions of Shale Gas Exploration in the UK: A Summary of Research (2012-2020)

BEIS public attitudes tracker Wave 36

19 replies »

  1. Of the seven categories listed as being a reason to support Fracking not one of them is actually based on anything that might be regarded as “true”.

    A case in point would be that Fracking would produce cheaper energy bills. This mistaken belief is often based on what happened in America when an over supply of Gas and Oil drove the price through the floor. The Gas was certainly cheap but this was at the expensive of Operator returns resulting in tanking Company values and debt delinquency. It also resulted in an increase in gas and oil consumption in an attempt to burn up the excess supply for which there was no storage.

    None of this was good news for the Operators. Nor was it good news for a planet trying to reduce carbon emissions.

    Of the 50% who believed that Fracking would reduce dependence on other fossil fuels, how many also believed that the moon was made of green cheese ?

  2. Oh, I see pT, the antis are the wise men and those who do not support are idiots!

    Well, my recollection was there were a lot of antis who admitted they knew little about the subject, so they were guessing as well. And, sorry to spoil your contrived narrative, their guessing was not superior.

    However, there were a large number who were not for or against, so perhaps they were the wise men and ladies, who were awaiting the evidence that did not arrive in the UK?

  3. Those who don’t want fracking to be attempted anywhere near their Communities because of concerns about damage caused by Hydrofrac Earthquakes are indeed wise.
    Properties were indeed damaged around the Fylde some 3 miles distant from Cuadrilla’s fracking site with repairs carried out through the property owner’s insurance company. Who were later fully compensated by Cuadrilla keeping the property owners No Claims bonus intact.

  4. Ahh, Peter. So Nimbys are wise?

    I am sure they think they are. There are a lot of them about-including those currently moaning about Aquind, or those in France who have forced the noisy wind turbines to be turned off. The alternative Nimbys.

    And, I think those of us who insure our properties recognise that properties can be repaired off insurance, no matter what the cause, depending upon the type of insurance.

  5. MARTIN,


    First let me wish you a Happy New Year . Although not recently contributing to this page, I’ve still been here silently in the background. I would like to thank you for your ongoing contributions to this forum … Your Charles Dickens approach to the Oil and Gas industry has been a great source of light entertainment throughout these very difficult and troubled times ..

    To give so much free laughter and joy to the people, is truly a kind hearted and noble thing to do …. I for one have throughouly enjoyed this feast of childrens fantasy and speculation which you have continued to dispense by the bucket load..

    I see you are still having difficulty understanding the dangers and costs of fracking , even after Jack has spent so much of his valuable time trying to enlighten you .

    Once again , for old times sake, let me say,

    Fracking is nothing more than a highly toxic, environmentally damaging, climate changing , dangerous to animal and human health, debt ridden PONZI scheme.

    Now if there is ANYTHING you dispute in my above post, then please, PLEASE dont be afraid to make your voice heard . I will be delighted to show you the indisputable, professional and scientific evidence to back up my comments.

    Yes MARTIN , there may be a % of people that are still undecided on Fracking , but this study has just highlighted the work that still needs to be done to inform the people of these dangers.

    Warm regards , Jack

  6. Well, hello little green jack. Welcome back. Happy New Year, and please pass that on to the other Jacks.

    However, I would have thought that during your absence you could have been provided with some new material.

    I have previously asked you twice how fracking is dangerous to animal health-and NO answers from you.

    So, please enlighten me, remembering I do know more than a little bit about animal health. If you want to be anti fracking, that is your choice, but may be better not to so obviously try and slip in doctored “evidence”. It failed miserably within last weeks Trump impeachment, and does indeed get the instruction to the jury that if one piece of evidence is doctored, then assume most of the rest is as well.

    And within your incorrect assertions-because they would have to be-please contrast with the dangers to animal health of wind turbines, because that is certainly firmly established. Maybe you would like to suggest that methane release could be dangerous to cattle? That could be interesting within Texas!(You may need to do a bit of research there Jack.) Or, Jack, you might like to examine how EVs are dangerous to animal health? There is an example for you in Germany regarding the manufacturing of them, and many examples of the “silent killers” on the roads.

    Your point about the undecided needing more information is interesting. That is the point I have been making for quite a long time. Let’s see them receive more information regarding the economics for the UK, including the tax increase to the UK. (Not sure whether it could get anywhere near the £28 billion per year lost in fuel duty, but every little bit helps.) Not some speculation from someone, but hard facts. You know what that needs, Jack? Oops.

    Thanks for returning and suggesting that more work needs to be done to inform people! You may be excommunicated from the anti ranks as a result, but good to see you have not lost your ability to make a good case for testing of fracking in the UK, whilst trying to do the opposite. Because, Jack, any fair minded person would have to agree that people should be informed with all the facts, not just one side of the equation and not to include doctored evidence.


      Your making this toooooo easy for me .

      FIRST let me start of by saying , you’ve NEVER before asked Jack to show you evidence as to how Fracking can be dangerous to animals… In fact MARTIN, I’m so confident in what I say , if you can show otherwise , I will dance naked around an open fire in Piccadilly Gardens.

      On to the matter in question , Yes Fracking is dangerous to animals and there have been a number of documented cases…. If fact there is so much evidence to support what I say , Jack will just help you out by giving you a very simple Google search.

      Just type in ……. Fracking Danger To Animals.

      It’s all there MARTIN , an endless number of pages , more than you can shake a stick at .

      • Oh dear Jack.

        Yep, you were asked to explain that statement and you couldn’t.

        And now, you have been asked to do so again, and you still can’t!

        The danger to animals was the flying of drones repeatedly over PNR. The cows looked pretty good in the neighbouring fields, other than the disturbance from the antis. It was suggested that selenium could have been an issue-except that was shown to be incorrect. Maybe a few worms could have been confused by a bit of shaking? Or, there were the antis prancing around dressed as owls causing disturbance to? Owls! Then there were the ladies undies hung upon a fence. Not a pretty sight-and that could have scared the horses. Then there were the flamingos near T.E. They could have suffered from the elevated emissions caused by the antis-yep, that was documented.

        All you demonstrate is that there are either a number of Jacks, or one has a very selective memory.

        Meanwhile, in Texas at the moment there is plenty of danger to animals as power outages cause big problems, including frozen wind turbines. Good job the fossil fueled trucks can still get heating gas and oil to keep those animals, including lots of cattle- from freezing, and fed! Wonder how the animals water will be thawed out? Ahh, that good old fossil fuel. Seems, at last, questions are being raised about relying too much upon electricity. I would have thought it pretty evident that electricity supply is pretty insecure during most forms of extreme weather, but there you are.

        Mind you, there are references to fracking increasing human sexual activity, so perhaps people close to fracking sites then neglect their animals? LOL.

        I can type in lots of things to Giggle, Jack, and get a reply. The vast majority of them are rubbish. Or, I can let Jack do so, and the answer is just the same-or, there isn’t one!

        Don’t think open fires are allowed in Piccadilly, Jack. Goodness, advocating the combustion of materials in a zone trying to control air quality! Tut, tut.

        Dancing bare? Oh yes, it all starts to make some sense.

        • MARTIN ,

          What exactly do I need to explain ??? The fact of the matter is , Fracking is highly dangerous to animals, so say the experts. THATS IT .

          MARTIN , you have said, quote, ” I have previously asked you twice how fracking is dangerous to animal health-and NO answers from you.” I say is 100% incorrect and I have challenged you to present the evidence . So where is it ?????? Or is this more Charles Dickens fantasy on your part ????

          Also your imagination about there being more than one jackthelad on here is pure fantasy ……. Why dont yo ask Ruth or Paul , they run this site . They will be able to tell you if there is multiple forum members operating from the same IP address calling themselves jackthelad … Go on , ask them .

          Now MARTIN, let’s now have less of your diversionary tactics .

          Let’s get back to the matter in hand and discus in depth, on this forum , what I have said , that is ,

          Fracking is a highly toxic , environmentally damaging, climate changing , dangerous to animal and human health , debt ridden PONZI scheme .

          If you dispute ANYTHING in the above, then lets see your professional, scientific evidence , not just your opinion .

          I will be delighted to back up ANYTHING I’ve said with professional , scientific evidence , just ask

  7. Sorry, Jack, I had not missed your odd reference to Charles Dickens, but had an appointment to meet.

    So, Jack, would that be the Charles Dickens who incorporated Jack Dawkins as the Artful Dodger, into Oliver Twist? Would that character be based upon Jack Sheppard, an 18th century thief, where the term Jack The Lad, is thought to originate, defined in some references as a cocky youngster who neglected academic studies? Hmm, or LOL.

    Not to worry, I see no connection with your adopted title. I just read what is posted and put it into context, and arrive at Jack the Vlad-and then it all makes more sense. Like the National Trust has members who are not members because they are expected to endorse everything that is done by the management, but simply to get a discount! Like most successful companies in the decadent West are debt ridden, because if you can borrow at a low level of interest and return very much more, then that is the way to go. Seems Mr. Musk relies upon that, as well. As does the Chelsea FC owner-(sorry can’t be bothered to spell check his name.) All quite okay until interest rates spike.

    Anyway, the day here is moving from Climate Change to Global Warming, so I have a window to take my daily exercise, to maintain my animal health awaiting your discourse on that subject. I will be back-unless run over by one of those silent killers.


      For all those new members who are not aware , MARTIN has a deep seated hatred of the National Trust …. This is because they stood firm against the Fracking industry and they said a big NO to allowing Ineos on their land ……

      MARTIN is deeply bitter against Tesla and the electric vehicle industry, even though this company is making huge strides forward…. Just take a look at the share price over the last few years …..MARTIN , why don’t we talk about the other leading vehicle manufacturer’s like BMW , Honda, VW , Mercedes that are all embracing the electric car future , or is trying to knock them punching a little above your weight ???

      If you want to see a Fracking company that’s took all its private investors to the cleaners, then look no further than the long term decline of Igas. Now there really is a company thats milked its investors, BIG TIME .

      You try and lighten the huge debts built up in the Fracking industry with such comments like , quote , ” Like most successful companies in the decadent West are debt ridden,. ” This is a totally misguided statement.. In the USA , the Fracking industry is responsible for some of the largest bankruptcies and debts in American history and you think that’s normal , are you having a laugh ?????

  8. Why do you have to suggest others hate and are bitter, Jack? You just display the usual character of the antis collective-the “antidepressants”. (Is it compulsory for antis to be so morose?)

    I do nothing of the sort, just point out the many errors that are posted, and the selective nature of the argument put forward-especially by yourself. Just deal with the issue rather than take an easy route of trying to pin labels upon others, which in my case are totally inaccurate, but if that is what is needed to make you feel better in the middle of the night, then I am sure it helps. But, it is a signal of the insecurity of your argument that you need to.

    Once again you have not answered the points I made, although it was you who requested they be made! So, the insecurity of the argument, made, but unable to support when challenged.

    And, we have discussed the multiple Jacks before, and NO your assertion is actually incorrect (how rare!)-unless you are confused with Morse code and the touch of fingers upon a key can be identified. However, there are other explanations as to why your thread of posts shows, shall I politely suggest, any consistency, logic or a full appreciation of the subject. I am quite happy to embrace those other explanations. (There were still 4 Jack sign ins appearing at one time. Which I did find amusing and somewhat careless.)

    You will also find that in USA there are some companies involved in the fracking industry who have made a lot of money-Covid excluded. If you do your research. Which is the standard pattern for US industry where some do very well, and others do very badly. I have worked for US companies in other sectors, so know that is factual. But, I do recall, when there were a series of publications about the US fracking industry by James Dean not too long ago, you were unable to access that information, as you were also unable to access the information about the NT management issues either. And, I did try and help you out there, but you were more interested in not doing research than doing so, and I remember you tried to claim that some of the factual information supplied by James Dean was not correct, even though you could not research it! (Remember the chat about the high school drop outs earning $60k a year washing dishes?) And you also did the same regarding the NT.

    So, I am not having a laugh around either. I have done my research, that you were unable or unwilling to do, but still wanted to try and demonstrate your “knowledge”, which seems to be completely limited to what you can select from some dubious sources on the Internet. On that platform, good luck with relationships!

    • Oh dear MARTIN ,

      Your trying to convince forum members that have lived through your endless swiping at the National Trust, we’ve all seen it first hand and funnily enough it all started on here, when the National Trust gave a firm two finger salute to Ineos Fracking plans.

      Well MARTIN, as people can read your above posts , they can witness first hand your avoid the issue tactics in full swing …. You’ve answered nothing and you’ve presented the usual ZERO evidence to back up any of your comments…. You should change your name to, ” MR OPINION ONLY. ”

      Why is it , when presented with hard indisputable evidence from Jack you always totally ignore it and then go in to some sort of diversionary, way out fantasy mode ? That in itself is a clear indication you have nothing to fight back with.

      Please PLEASE explain what on earth are you talking about , when you say, quote, ” I have not answered the points you have made ” I strongly dispute that .

      I say it to you once again,

      FRACKING is nothing more than an environmentally damaging , climate changing, dangerous to animal and human health, debt ridden PONZI scheme .

      Now MARTIN , I will be delighted to fill up this page with REAL evidence ( LINKS ) from qualified, professional people/organizations to support any of my above comments , just like I did in the good old days on this forum …… I ask that if you are going to try and challenge any of the above , you supply the forum members with real evidence, not just your opinion backed up with the usual SWEET NOTHING .

      • MARTIN ,

        HAHA, yes I remember laughing loudly at the $60,000 a year pot washing jobs at U.S. Fracking sites …

        It’s easy to spend other peoples cash when your running a debt ridden PONZI scheme …. To pretend all is good with a number of high paying menial jobs is all part of the the well trodden practice of any traditional PONZI scheme . Make it look great on the outside in order to draw in and part more guilable investors of their cash.

        When looking at the eye watering bancruptcies and debts that the American Fracking industry has built up and knowing how this will impact small time private investors , large institutions and banks .. Knowing how a lot of this debt will eventually fall on the toes of the hard pressed , good old American tax payer .

        Dont you think it would of been a lot cheaper to never start the U.S. Fracking industry and just pay these $60,000 a year pot washers to stay at home resting ?

      • MARTIN , I ask you , what type of a person would want to expose the UK economy to such colossal debts and bankruptcies ?????

        The answer is simple …….. A small time Fracking company investor who is hoping to make a quick buck .

        PS……… Let’s also not forget these debts and bankruptcies will be ongoing , as maintenance costs of abandoned wells will be ongoing .

  9. It is interesting to follow the money trail. In this instance follow the trail to who funded this study and look at the so called experts closely.

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