c Perceptions of Hydraulic Fracturing

by Alex Frumkin

Hydraulic fracturing is considered controversial for many reasons, including the possible negative environmental impacts, the possible economic benefits of development, and reduction of reliance on foreign oil. Previous national opinion polls have indicated that a sizable minority of the population lack familiarity with this largely unregulated field. Boudet et al. (2014) studied different socio-demographic indicators will predict support of or opposition to hydraulic fracturing.

This study on which socio-demographic indicators will predict support of or opposition to hydraulic fracturing was completed in September of 2012, with a total of 1062 respondents. The conclusions that Boudet et al. came to had a margin of error of 3% at the 95% confidence level. Identifying as a woman or having egalitarian worldviews was negatively associated with support for hydraulic fracturing. Individuals who identified as politically conservative was a positive indicator of support. These results were what the researchers were expecting, however formal education which was believed to negatively predict support, ultimately ended up being a positive predictor for support. Similarly, they found that household income, race, and individualist worldview were all not predictive of support, in contrast to the authors’ original hypothesizes.

These results indicate that the American populace is largely not knowledgeable of and undecided about hydraulic fracturing. The Americans who are in opposition to hydraulic fracturing are more likely to be familiar with hydraulic fracturing and include: women, egalitarians, people who read newspapers more than once a week and often reference environmental concerns for their position. On the other hand, supporters of hydraulic fracturing tend to be older, have higher education, be politically conservative, watch TV for their news instead of reading newspapers, and their support stems from the possible economic developments. These socio-demographics are critical to understand because history has demonstrated that public attitudes place a large role in how unconventional oil/gas reserves are developed. This research illustrates the need to pursue a wide–ranging and inclusive public dialog about the realities of hydraulic fracturing in America.

Hilary Boudet, Christopher Clarke, Dylan Bugden, Edward Maibach, Connie Roser-Renouf, Anthony Lesiderwotiz, 2014. “Fracking” controversy and communication: Using national survey data to understand public perceptions of hydraulic fracturing doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2013.10.017 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421513010392

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