Public opposition to fracking grows

William JordanUS Elections Editor
May 19, 2015, 10:59 AM GMT+0

In 2013, more favoured than opposed fracking in Britain. Since then, public sentiment has reversed

With David Cameron’s new all-Conservative cabinet now in place and Parliament back in session, much of Westminster’s attention will once again turn back to governing. One major issue facing the next Parliament is Britain’s future with fracking, the controversial drilling technique credited with the recent boom in US shale oil and gas drilling. The Conservative party has shown support for the use of fracking, but it faces opposition from local communities and environmental groups.

YouGov’s latest research shows that fracking proponents may be facing an increasingly sceptical public. A new survey conducted for the Sunday Times shows that, provided with a description of how the process works as well as some of its potential benefits and risks, opinions now lean against the use of fracking in Britain. 43% say shale gas extraction should not happen in the country while a third think it should.

This suggests an insignificant shift against fracking since January but a much larger change from surveys in previous years, when as many as 44% of British people supported the use of fracking and only 29% were opposed. Since 2013, the issue has risen in profile and some MPs have called for a fracking ban.

The latest survey also asked respondents how they would feel about fracking in their own area, which has been met with particular opposition in the past. This continues to be the case, with 49% opposed to fracking in “a town or village near you” and 27% in support. Respondents remain on balance opposed, 44% to 32%, even if £1,000,000 is paid to the local council, and are even slightly opposed, 40% to 36%, when the sum rises to £10,000,000.

Really green?

The new Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Amber Rudd, has been described as “really green and no-nonsense”. The new poll suggests the public also remain broadly sympathetic to some “green” concerns, especially relating to climate change.

Only 12% are “most supportive” of using fossil fuels to meet Britain’s future energy generation needs, while 46% prefer renewable energy sources – though 24% back nuclear power, which has been opposed by some environmentalists.

58% say the government should encourage the building of onshore wind farms, but only 37% want the government backing onshore wind. Rudd has indicated the Conservative party will withdraw government subsidies for onshore wind farms.

59% believe in man-made climate change, consistent with past surveys and even a modest increase from 2013, when around half believed. Half the public (50%) and the majority of adults under-40 also believe the government should do more to try and tackle climate change, against a third who say it’s already doing enough (21%) or too much (13%).

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See the full Sunday Times results