Advances in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, have revolutionized America's energy landscape. However, most Americans are so uninformed about the practice that they don't have an opinion on it according to a new study.
The study, titled "American perceptions of hydraulic fracturing" and produced by scholars at George Mason University, Oregon State, and Yale University, is based on responses to questions from the biennial Climate Change in the American Mind survey.
Although the issue is of critical importance for US and even international energy, economic, and environmental policy, most Americans don't have a clue about it (emphasis mine):
Four questions about fracking were included in the Climate Change in the American Mind survey, which sampled 1,061 Americans in September 2012. More than half of those surveyed said they had heard little or nothing about fracking, and 9 percent reported they had heard “a lot.” Fifty-eight percent of the respondents said they didn’t know or were undecided about whether they supported or opposed fracking, while 20 percent were opposed and 22 percent supported it.
Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed specifically reported that they knew nothing at all about fracking. Seven percent said they were aware of some environmental impacts of fracking and 3 percent said they were aware of positive economic and energy supply impacts of fracking.
Among those that knew enough to form an opinion on fracking, the results were relatively predictable:
Those most likely to oppose fracking:
- people holding more egalitarian worldviews
- people who read newspapers more than once a week
- people more familiar with fracking
- people who associate the process with environmental impacts
Those most likely to support fracking:
- older people
- people holding a bachelor's degree or higher
- politically conservative
- people who watch TV news more than once a week
- people who associate the process with positive economic or energy supply outcomes
It is a particularly hot political issue largely because the public opinion is evenly divided so far. The study shows that the uninformed majority could easily tip the balance of the debate either way.