Research from YouGov for the University of Nottingham shows considerable levels of public awareness over “fracking” for shale gas, with over half of the country (51%) knowing about the process.

However, YouGov’s regular research into the area shows levels of public knowledge about the process fluctuate greatly. While the March 2013 figure is higher than the 38% that knew about the “fracking” twelve months earlier, it is down on the more than six in ten (62%) who understood the term in December 2012.

Seismic change

Over time there have also been changes in what the pubic associates with the energy source. In March 2012 59% of people aware of shale gas associated it with earthquakes, a figure that rose to 71% in April 2012 after an official report found that seismic activity off the Lancashire coast was a result of shale gas extraction. The association with tremors was only slightly lower (69%) when the government announced the end of its “fracking” ban last December.

Over the same period there was a steady increase in the number of people who associate shale gas with cheap energy, moving up from 41% in March 2012 to 47% in June 2012 to 53% in March 2013. There has also been a modest increase in the number of people who link shale gas to lowering greenhouse emissions, rising from 27% in March 2012 to 31% in March 2013.

Laurence Janta-Lipinski, Research Manager at YouGov, says: “The debate about shale gas is not going to go away any time soon and these results show that fracking is pretty well known and in the public’s consciousness. The fluctuations in how the issue is perceived show how powerful the media is in shaping the terms of the debate. It will be interesting to see how the press and public react to the prospect of greater exploration of shale gas in the coming months and years.”

For full survey results please click here

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