This month Quinnipiac University conducted a poll asking New York State residents their views on fracking. That’s the slang-ish term for drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale using the controversial hydro-fracking method of jetting water and company-secret chemicals deep into the earth. The technique, which some say poses threats to drinking water, is already being used in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, but remains suspect in places like New York and New Jersey.
What struck me was less the actual results than the press’s confused reporting of them, and the lack of reporting on the poll’s most interesting findings. According to the actual poll, when you get right down to basics people are pretty uninformed. Altogether only 53% of respondents have “heard or read anything about hydro-fracking,” and when you break that down, only 45% of Democrats are aware of the issue, even though it’s usually Democrats who show more concern for environmental issues.
Along those same lines, just 35% of New York City residents know about fracking. Of course, drilling for gas doesn’t happen in the city, and it’s not surprising that a lot more Upstaters (73%) are hip. But just 35% of heavily Democratic, environment-friendly city folk? That’s disturbing.
Most reports, like that in the Daily News, focussed on the slight edge in favor of hydro-fracking overall – 45% pro vs. 41% against. But there is a huge difference between members of political parties on whether it would “cause environmental damage,” with 65% of Democrats saying yes vs. only 33% of Republicans. The news here, as if it needed saying, is that political affiliation prejudices people on ostensibly non-political (e.g. factual) matters.
So…to frack or not to frack? 69% of Republicans say yes, as opposed to just 35% or Democrats and 47% of Independents. 52% of men favor fracking vs. 39% of women, probably because blowing up rocks feels sort of macho. Regionally, though, Upstaters and city-slickers are unconvinced in similar numbers, with (respectively) just 43% and 41% supporting the practice – while 56% of suburbanites favor drilling.
Ah, the suburbs. Your humble correspondent grew up in the suburbs. A nice place to be a kid, but as high school wore on I couldn’t wait to get out and get to the city. While there may not be any fracking going on on my urban block, there’s constant drilling on the nearby avenue and construction across the street. Come to think of it, maybe those Upstaters deserve a little of this disturbance.