The public is divided over fracking but the more Americans hear about fracking, the safer they think it is
For the first time the federal government has issued regulations for what is commonly known as 'fracking', a process where natural gas and oil is released from rock formations by injecting fluids into them at very high pressures. The rules will only apply to drilling undertaken on federal land, but it is expected that many states will follow the federal government's lead in requiring drillers to disclose what chemicals they use as well as holding them to strict rules about how they dispose of wastewater from the process. Fracking is highly controversial and has been criticized by many environmentalists for being unsafe but it has caused a boom in oil and gas production in many states.
YouGov's latest research shows that among the 37% of Americans who have heard or read a lot about fracking, 52% of them think that the process is safe. 42% of people who have heard a lot about it think it is unsafe. Among the 41% of Americans who have only heard a little about fracking, however, the percentage who thinks it is safe drops 16% to 36%, while the percentage who think it is unsafe only drops 5% to 37%. Overall, public opinion on the safety of fracking is nearly evenly split, with 36% saying that it is 'very' or 'somewhat' safe, and 34% saying it is 'not very' or 'not at all' safe. 31% of Americans aren't sure either way.
There is also a partisan dimension to the issue of fracking. Democrats (17%) are much less likely than Republicans (64%) to say that they think fracking is safe. Republicans (59%) are also much more likely than independents (30%) and Democrats (12%) to favor increased use of fracking to extract oil and gas. Democrats (39%) largely oppose increased fracking, while independents are split between those who support increased fracking (30%), those who oppose it (23%) and those who are neutral on the issue (22%).
30% of Americans think that the use of fracking should be increased and 26% think that it should not, but the results are turned on their head when people are asked about fracking in their own community. 26% of Americans would favor fracking in their own area, but 33% would oppose it.