A new poll shows opposition to hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has hit a new high among voters in New York State. Most poll respondents agreed that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been avoiding making a decision about the practice.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll released Friday, 48% of voters are opposed to fracking because of the impact on the environment, while 43% support the practice because of the economic benefits. The remaining 9% either didn't know or did not answer the question.

The 48% mark of opposition to fracking is the highest in a Quinnipiac poll since March 20, 2013, when 46% of respondents said they opposed fracking. However, the margin between support and opposition to fracking was greater in that poll (46-39%) compared to the newest one (see Shale Daily, March 20, 2013).

The latest Quinnipiac poll showed upstate (48-43%) and suburban (47-45%) voters support fracking while New York City voters oppose the practice, 55-35%. Fracking also found supporters among Republicans (71-20%), men (52-42%) and voters over the age of 55 (46-43%). But Democrats (62-30%), independents (53-40%), women (53-35%), voters aged 18-34 (54-39%) and voters aged 35-54 (52-41%) were opposed to fracking.

Previous Quinnipiac polls conducted in last November (46-44%), February (45-41%) and May (45-44%) also showed more voters were opposed to fracking, but the practice came out ahead in June 2013, 46-44%.

"New York State voters remain closely divided on the issue of natural gas drilling, or fracking, but opinion has been shifting ever so slightly against it," said Maurice Carroll, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll. "Voters say 2-1 that [Cuomo] is dragging his feet on making a decision."

Indeed, the poll found 41% of respondents agreed with the statement that Cuomo was "dragging his feet and trying to avoid making a decision" on fracking, while 20% said the Democratic governor was "carefully evaluating the issue" and 36% had no opinion.

Half of Republican respondents believe Cuomo is stalling on fracking, but 36% had no opinion and 12% said he was carefully evaluating. Surprisingly, more Democrats had no opinion (39%) on the issue, but 30% conceded he was stalling and 29% said he was studying the practice. Pluralities of independents (47%), men (49%), voters aged 35-54 (44%), voters over the age of 55 (42%), upstate (46%) and suburban (46%) voters said Cuomo was stalling.

The 41% of respondents who agreed that Cuomo was dragging his feet on fracking marked a new low on the issue, and the sentiment has been growing since February, when 35% said he was stalling.

Quinnipiac surveyed 1,034 registered voters in New York State between Aug. 14 and 17. The poll has a margin of error of plus/minus 3.1%.

Cuomo will face Zephyr Teachout and Randy Credico in a primary election on Sept. 9. The winner will presumably face Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino -- a Republican who supports fracking -- in the general election on Nov. 4.

A de facto moratorium on high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) has been in effect in New York State since July 2008, when then-Gov. David Paterson ordered the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to perform a supplemental generic environmental impact statement (SGEIS) on the practice.

In September 2012, DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens asked Nirav Shah, commissioner of the state Department of Health to conduct a health impact analysis of HVHF before the DEC completed its SGEIS (see Shale Daily, Sept. 24, 2012). Shah has since resigned his post for a job in the private sector (see Shale Daily, April 11) and no health analysis has been forthcoming.