Residents of Pittsburgh and the 32-county area surrounding it believe drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale is both an economic opportunity for the region and a potential environmental and public health threat, according to the results of a recent survey conducted by PittsburghToday and the staff of the University of Pittsburgh’s University Center for Social and Urban Research.

The Pittsburgh Regional Quality of Life Survey includes responses on a wide variety of topics from more than 1,800 residents of the city and region, including parts of Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia.

More than 44% of those responding to the survey said they support extracting gas from the Marcellus, while about 25% said they oppose the practice.

“Most residents overall viewed natural gas drilling as an economic opportunity for the region,” said the report. “For example, seven in 10 saw it as either a significant or moderate economic opportunity, while only one in 10 felt it offers very little or no economic opportunity for the region.” And drilling was viewed as an environmental and public health threat by all by 17% of respondents.

Marcellus drilling “was a topic most residents follow to some degree,” said the report. “Only 19% of residents said they did not follow developments in gas drilling, while more than half (54%) said it was an issue they followed very closely or somewhat closely.” Newspapers and other news media were respondents’ chief sources of information on the issue.

The survey results are evidence that “safe, tightly regulated, job-creating Marcellus Shale development is supported by a clear majority of western Pennsylvania communities where natural gas production actually occurs,” said the Marcellus Shale Coalition.