It turns out Americans aren’t just blissfully ignorant about where Iraq is on a map, they are also unaware of the hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, revolution occurring in the United States and Canada. In order to better understand what people actually think and know about fracking, OSU researchers delved, in the form of a short survey and literature review published in Energy Policy, a peer-reviewed journal, into the minds of 1,061 Americans to determine just what they knew about hydraulic fracturing, how they felt about it, and whether they supported or opposed it.
Fifty-two percent of the respondents either had never heard about fracking, or did not know if they had heard about it, 22% had heard something about it, and 9% had heard a lot about it. So there is clearly a knowledge gap between policy makers and voters; less than 10% of the respondents were exposed to enough information to form an informed opinion.
The responses on support or opposition mirrored the responses to knowledge about the issue: 58% didn’t know or were undecided, 20% were somewhat or strongly opposed and 22% were somewhat or strongly supportive.
Those who were opposed to fracking tended to be younger, female, familiar with the issue, egalitarian, focused on the potential environmental impacts from drilling, and got their news from newspapers. Those who were supportive tended to be older, hold a bachelor’s degree, were focused on the potential economic benefits from drilling, and got their news from TV.
When asked about what they associated with hydraulic fracturing, 58% of respondents reported that they did not know anything about the issue or responded with irrelevant statements or statements that lacked specificity. This likely reflects the reality that most of them had never even heard of it before the interviewer asked them about it. Thirty-two percent replied with descriptions of the process, which may represent a middle ground of potential supporters or opponents.
Seven percent had environmental concerns like the potential for water contamination from spills or leakages, while 3% responded with economic or energy concerns like the potential for it to spur job creation or provide cheap energy; only 1% responded with social concerns like the potential effects on property and people.
The survey also found that age was positively associated with support, which might mean that as the “boomer” generation moves out of political life, support for fracking will diminish. Additionally, the researchers found that increased familiarity was associated with opposition to it.