Consumers generally favor increased domestic energy production but have mixed feelings about the current natural gas boom, a recent poll by the University of Texas at Austin (UT) found. In particular, the survey illustrates how sharply divided the public remains over the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for well stimulation.

Overall, 45% of respondents familiar with fracking say they support its use for fossil fuel extraction, down from 48% a year ago, while 41% say they oppose the practice. However, of this group, only 22% of Democrats support fracking, while 60% oppose it, and 71% of Republicans support fracking, while 20% oppose it.

Consumers continued to express concern about possible harm to the environment from fracking, with the potential for water contamination again topping the list of specific concerns. “More consumers — 43% today versus 38% a year ago — say there should be more regulation of hydraulic fracturing,” said Sheril Kirshenbaum, director of the UT Energy Poll. “Still, we also see steady support for the expansion of domestic natural gas development.”

As might be expected, various polls on the fracking issue have yielded different results. A recent Harris Interactive poll found that 60% of North Carolina voters support the use of fracking in their state (see Shale Daily, March 27), but opposition to fracking in New York State has grown slightly, according to a recent Siena College Research Institute poll (see Shale Daily, March 13).

Other findings from the UT poll include:

UT’s online nationwide survey was conducted March 11-20. Data were weighted using U.S. Census Bureau figures, as well as propensity scores, to ensure the sample’s composition reflects the actual U.S. population.