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Polls: Shale Support Strong in Ohio, Weaker in New York

Two separate polls conducted by Quinnipiac University show voters in New York and Ohio have very different opinions of shale gas development, with almost two-thirds of Ohioans saying the economic benefits outweigh any environmental concerns, while nearly half of New Yorkers opposed to drilling.

On Friday, Quinnipiac released a poll that showed Ohio voters support drilling by a 63-30% margin. Support for drilling was strongest among Republicans (84-10%), men (72-24%), whites (67-28%) and independents (66-27%), but it also curried favor with college graduates (62-33%) and women (56-36%). Democrats opposed drilling by a 49-43% vote, as did blacks, 48-39%.

The Ohio poll showed that the fault line between supporters and opponents of shale development has remained essentially unchanged. Support for drilling prevailed by a 64-29% tally in separate Quinnipiac polls conducted on Jan. 19, 2012 and May 9, 2012 (see Shale Daily, May 14, 2012; Jan. 20, 2012).

But shale development polled much differently in the Empire State, with 46% opposed to drilling because of its potential impact on the environment, presumably from hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Support for drilling polled at 42% among New Yorkers.

The Quinnipiac poll in New York showed Republicans backed drilling (68-25%), as did men (47-42%), whites (47-45%) and suburban voters (47-44%), but they were the only demographics to do so. Drilling was opposed by Democrats (58-29%), college graduates (54-39%), women (49-38%), blacks (49-27%), New York City residents (47-37%), Upstate residents (46-45%) and independents (45-43%).

Despite more New Yorkers being opposed to shale development, support had actually grown for drilling since the last Quinnipiac poll on March 20, which saw opposition to drilling by a 46-39% margin (see Shale Daily, March 20).

"Fracking continues to divide the state by party, region and gender," Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said. "The thumbs-down we found last time is moving back into a gray area. Voters still think it will bring new jobs -- and some environmental damage."

The poll found that 54% of New Yorkers believe fracking will cause environmental damage, while 16% said they don't think the practice will cause harm and 29% answered that they didn't know. But despite their environmental fears, New Yorkers also believe very strongly -- by a 72-20% margin -- that shale development will create jobs. They also support, 50-38%, a new tax on companies drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale.

The poll also found that New Yorkers have formed very divergent opinions of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who took office two years ago and who is at the forefront of the debate over fracking. Overall, 31% of respondents believe Cuomo is "dragging his feet" on fracking, while 24% believe he is "carefully evaluating" the practice. Republicans believe, by a 41-19% margin, that the Democratic governor is stalling instead of being prudent, a position shared by men (40-26%), Upstate voters (37-23%), college graduates (37-27%), whites (34-25%), independents (33-24%), suburbanites (32-25%), Hispanics (30-21%), New York City residents (27-25%) and women (26-23%). Only Democrats (28-24%) and blacks (28-14%) thought otherwise.

"There's a sense of impatience among voters," Carroll said. "Is [the governor] doing a careful evaluation or dragging his feet? Slightly more voters see the scuff marks."

Quinnipiac surveyed 1,138 registered voters in Ohio between April 10 and 15 for the Ohio poll, which has a margin of error of plus/minus 2.91%. In New York, the university polled 1,404 registered voters between April 9 and 14, with a margin of error of plus/minus 2.62%.

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