How perceptions about natural gas production, climate change have changed

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A natural gas worker on a rig in Susquehanna County in 2012. A StateImpact/Franklin & Marshall poll out Thursday shows a majority of registered voters, 69 percent, favor policies that would promote renewable wind and solar power over fossil fuel sources like coal and natural gas. (Susan Phillips/StateImpact Pennsylvania)

A natural gas worker on a rig in Susquehanna County in 2012. A StateImpact/Franklin & Marshall poll out Thursday shows a majority of registered voters, 69 percent, favor policies that would promote renewable wind and solar power over fossil fuel sources like coal and natural gas. (Susan Phillips/StateImpact Pennsylvania)

A new Franklin & Marshall College and StateImpact Pennsylvania poll on climate change and shale gas surveyed 423 Pennsylvanians – all registered voters, equally distributed across the state. The mix of party affiliations – Democrats, Republicans, and independents – matches statewide percentages.

The results show a majority of Pennsylvanians are concerned about climate change, especially those who are younger and more liberal leaning. Morning Edition host Jennifer Lynn spoke with StateImpact Pennsylvania’s Susan Phillips about the findings.

What does this poll tell us about what voters are thinking about climate change?

A full two-thirds of respondents said climate change is already causing problems in the state of Pennsylvania, and they want the state government to do something about it. About 40 percent say they have personally experienced negative impacts. So I found that pretty interesting. And it looks like, when it comes to climate change, the majority of Pennsylvanians, No. 1, believe it’s happening, and, No. 2, they feel more needs to be done to address it.

Do they say how?

Well one question asked about promoting renewables over fossil fuels. And again, there’s strong support for renewable energy. Sixty-nine percent of those polled say the state’s energy policies should prioritize things like wind and solar, while only 18 percent, a much smaller part of the group, say the state’s policies should focus on fossil fuels, like coal and natural gas.

Every couple of years, there’s a freshened-up version of this poll, and it has addressed natural gas production. Over time, how have voter perceptions changed about natural gas production?

There’s been a number of things that have been changing. Again, when the questions were first posed back in 2011, a larger percentage of people didn’t have any opinion whatsoever. That is changing. And as more people have an opinion, whether it’s positive or negative, there seems to be a trend of more and more voters thinking negatively about the industry as they learn more about it. For example, there’s been a shift from 2011 when two-thirds had a favorable view of the industry while about one-third of respondents didn’t. But seven years later, we’re seeing a dramatic shift. Today, it’s about 50-50. Less than half have a favorable view, and also less than have don’t like it at all.

There’s also been another shift and that’s in how people weigh the economic benefits versus the environmental risks. In 2011, the majority thought economic benefits held sway. But today, more than half are saying that the environmental risks are greater than the financial benefits.

Did people weigh in on the severance tax, whether they’re in favor of that or not? 

You know they didn’t ask that in this poll, and I’m not sure why. But definitely in past polls, there has been broad support for a severance tax.

All this said, there’s plenty of information that’s coming out of this poll, how can we direct listeners to the poll results so they can see what people are weighing in on? 

It’s posted on our website.

 



F&M Poll Release March 2018 (Text)

StateImpact Pennsylvania is an energy reporting collaboration between WHYY, WITF, WESA and the Allegheny Front.  The project is funded, in part, through grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Heinz Endowments, and the William Penn Foundation.

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