Government survey drops some questions about fracking

A government survey of public attitudes on energy issues has dropped some questions about fracking and will ask others less frequently.

Fracking results of the May 2020 public attitudes survey for BEIS

Until earlier this year, the wave tracker survey, commissioned by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), asked people once every three months whether they supported or opposed fracking. It also asked about the reasons for their views and how much they knew about the process.

But BEIS told DrillOrDrop the questions on support or opposition for fracking would now be asked just once a year.

Under changes to the survey, announced this week, the question on why people supported or opposed fracking has been removed, the spokesperson said. This would allow “more questions on current policy areas”.

The question on awareness of fracking would also be asked only annually from now on, the spokesperson added.

The first of the new style surveys, including the annual questions on fracking, will be published in December 2021. After that, future survey results will be published in February, May, August and November.

The survey will use an address-based online survey using random probability sampling. This methodology means that any new results on fracking attitudes cannot be compared with those from previous surveys dating back more than seven years.

The first wave tracker was published in July 2012 and questions about fracking for shale gas were added in data collected in December 2013. This found that 27% of people supported shale gas extraction and 21% opposed.

Opposition rose to a record high of 45% in a survey carried out in March 2020, and support fell to a record low of 8%.

The proportion of participants who neither supported nor opposed fracking has varied from 43%-50%. Awareness of fracking has increased from 52%, when the question was first asked, to around 78%.

Data: BEIS Wave Tracker survey

During the Covid pandemic, survey fieldwork changed from face-to-face questions to an online panel. The results of four surveys carried out between June 2020 and March 2021 could not be compared with previous data and can’t be directly compared with any new results.

The most recent of the Covid surveys reported that 23% of participants supported fracking, 36% opposed and 32% neither supported nor opposed.   

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