A plurality of Americans support hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and would even support the practice in their own hometown, according to a poll conducted by the Robert Morris University (RMU) Polling Institute.
RMU said Monday that respondents were shown "a balanced presentation of fracking offered by energy groups and environmental groups." Afterward, 42.3% said they strongly support fracking, while 32.8% were either somewhat or strongly opposed to the practice. Another 24.9% were unsure.
A majority of respondents with an opinion, 56.4%, said they support fracking, while 43.6% said they were opposed.
"It is interesting that a majority is in support of fracking," said Tony Kerzmann, assistant professor of engineering at RMU. "Just three years ago, when there was staunch opposition to fracking by many environmental groups, I think you would have been lucky to have a third of poll respondents in support of fracking.
"With the economic benefits many regions have experienced, and having experienced minimal environmental problems, even the environmental groups are starting to join forces with oil and gas companies."
The poll also found that, among respondents with an opinion:
80.1% believe fracking has the potential to help the national economy;
73.9% agree fracking will help the United States achieve energy independence; and
60.2% support the export of gas produced through fracking.
However, the poll also found that 59.6% of respondents with an opinion believe the environmental impact from gas drilling outweighs any reduced energy costs or energy independence.
When asked if they would support fracking in their hometown, 40% of respondents said they would either strongly or somewhat support the idea, while 34.7% were either strongly or somewhat opposed. Another 25.3% were unsure. Among the respondents with an opinion, 53.6% supported fracking in their own hometown.
RMU, located in Moon Township, PA, surveyed 1,003 adults online between Oct. 23 and Nov. 1 for the poll; its margin of error is plus/minus 3%.