Mercyhurst Poll shows Pa. residents divided on risks of Marcellus Shale

Pennsylvanians believe the economic benefits of gas extraction from Marcellus Shale are substantial, but are evenly divided on the risks for the environment and human health, according to a just released poll of the Mercyhurst Center for Applied Politics (MCAP).

The Mercyhurst Poll surveyed 426 residents across the state in a random sampling taken Sept. 19 to Oct. 7, and addressed four major themes: Environment & Marcellus Shale, Economics & Poverty, Bullying and Youthful Offenders & the Juvenile Justice System. All final reports will be posted to the MCAP website upon their completion.

The section on Enrivonment and Marcellus Shale revealed that Pennsylvanians’ opinions on extracting gas from the Marcellus Shale formation through the process of “fracking” reflect uncertainty about the practice and the state’s regulatory response to the developing shale gas industry.

Key findings indicate roughly 70 percent of Pennsylvanians have heard about “fracking.” Of those, 55 percent favor the practice, 27 percent oppose it and 18 percent say it “depends” or they “don’t know.” Support decreases substantially when asked if they favor or oppose “fracking” in state forests and state parks. A clear majority (57 percent) oppose the practice in state forests and a sizable majority (67 percent) opposing “fracking” within state parks.

Pennsylvanians hold positive views on the economic benefits of “fracking.” Roughly 73 percent say that gas extracted from the Marcellus Shale formation should be taxed, and 55 percent believe that gas extraction, even if it is not taxed, will “significantly help” Pennsylvania’s financial situation. Likewise, a clear majority (62 percent) believe that gas extraction has brought “a significant number” of new jobs to Pennsylvania and that it will “significantly increase” the nation’s energy independence (59 percent).

In the end, Pennsylvanians recognize the tradeoffs of “fracking” and are narrowly split on whether the benefits are worth the risks. For example, 44 percent of Pennsylvanians say that the “potential benefits” of “fracking” are worth the “potential risks to human health,” while 40 percent say they are not. Similarly, 46 percent say that the “potential benefits” of “fracking” are worth the “potential risks to the environment,” while 43 percent say they are not.

Poll results are based on interviews conducted by trained Mercyhurst College students, mostly political science majors, of 426 adult residents of Pennsylvania with a margin of error of +/- 5.68 percent.

This represents the first statewide poll for the new Mercyhurst Center for Applied Politics, now in its second year. MCAP is the only independent, nonpartisan research organization in northwest Pennsylvania that aims to regularly conduct public opinion polls on issues of regional, state and national concern. Dr. Joseph Morris is director; Dr. Rolfe Peterson is associate director and methodologist.

To learn more, call the polling center at 824-3859.
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