Fracking for Natural Gas: Public Opinion on State Policy Options

November 1, 2011
Barry Rabe, Christopher Borick

This report presents the views of Pennsylvania citizens on a range of issues related to extraction of natural gas through "fracking" procedures. The report responds to a discovery of potentially massive deposits beneath the Marcellus Shale and a series of related issues concerning the economy, environmental protection, and public safety. The findings are drawn from an October 2011 telephone survey conducted by the Muhlenberg Institute of Public Opinion, in collaboration with the University of Michigan Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy. This survey secured responses from 525 residents of the state, drawn from all regions and comprising a statistically-representative profile of citizens. It examines general public attitudes on this issue as well as consideration of a series of policy options that have been introduced in state and local government circles. Key findings include: (1) more Pennsylvanians believe drilling has and will provide more benefits than problems; (2) drilling firms should be taxed and the revenue should be used for road and bridge repair or environmental protection; (3) Pennsylvanians view natural gas as a public resource and believe there should be disclosure of fracking chemicals used; and, (4) Pennsylvanians have significant doubts about the credibility of the media, environmental groups and scientists on the issue, and also believe Governor Tom Corbett is too closely aligned with the preferences of energy extraction groups.