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American Perceptions of Hydraulic Fracturing

“Fracking” controversy and communication: Using national survey data to understand public perceptions of hydraulic fracturing by Hilary Boudet, Christopher Clarke, Dylan Bugden, Edward Maibach, Connie Roser-Renouf, & Anthony Leiserowitz


The recent push to develop unconventional sources of oil and gas both in the U.S. and abroad via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) has generated a great deal of controversy. Effectively engaging stakeholders and setting appropriate policies requires insights into current public perceptions of this issue. Using a nationally representative U.S. sample (n=1061), we examine public perceptions of hydraulic fracturing including: “top of mind” associations; familiarity with the issue; levels of support/opposition; and predictors of such judgments. Similar to findings on other emerging technologies, our results suggest limited familiarity with the process and its potential impacts and considerable uncertainty about whether to support it. Multiple regression analysis (R2=.49) finds that women, those holding egalitarian worldviews, those who read newspapers more than once a week, those more familiar with hydraulic fracturing, and those who associate the process with environmental impacts are more likely to oppose fracking. In contrast, people more likely to support fracking tend to be older, hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, politically conservative, watch TV news more than once a week, and associate the process with positive economic or energy supply outcomes. Based on these findings, we discuss recommendations for future research, risk communication, and energy policy.