Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, is a process of drilling into the earth and injecting liquid at high pressures to open fissures and extract previously unretrievable natural gas and oil. The process has made the U.S. a bigger oil producer in recent years than Saudi Arabia.
But because of environmental concerns such as polluting water tables and increased earthquakes, it has become a divisive issue. As a result, some states have restrictions on fracking–in Texas, there are local bans, and in New York, there is an outright state ban.
A new Gallup poll of 1,000 Americans from all states and Washington, D.C., shows that young people oppose fracking much more than older Americans. In fact, Americans younger than 50 oppose fracking more than they support it, though a fifth of the population has no opinion. Overall, the 80% of Americans who do have an opinion of fracking are evenly split in their attitudes toward it.
Young people ages 18 to 29 were most likely to be apathetic to fracking, with nearly a quarter having no opinion. Meanwhile, 52% of people 65 and older are in favor of fracking, the only age group with either support or opposition breaking 50%.
The issue is also deeply partisan. Democrats strongly oppose fracking (54% opposed, 26% in favor), while Republicans decisively support it (66% in favor, 20% opposed). This could in part account for why young people are more likely to oppose fracking, since younger Americans are more likely to identify as Democrats, according to Gallup.
Interestingly, 24% of Americans who consider themselves “active participants” in the environmental movement support fracking. While 53% of self-identified environmental movement participants are opposed to fracking, it’s noteworthy that so many environmentalists still support the practice. This could be due to the fact that generating electricity from natural gas has lower carbon emissions than coal, and with fracking, it can be acquired domestically, like coal. The poll comes on the heels of another report from Gallup showing that Americans are evenly split on President Obama’s track record of protecting the environment.