A farmer works near a gas extraction well in Washington County, PA. Photo by Sara Gillooly, Tyler Rubright, Samantha Malone and FracTracker Alliance.

Fracking has made Pennsylvania the second biggest gas-producing state in the U.S., while igniting fears about pollution and related health problems. Now a Franklin & Marshall College poll conducted Jan. 20-26 shows that Pennsylvania voters are split on the issue of banning fracking.

About half of the 628 voters surveyed say they support a ban on fracking like the one in New York —and about half do not: 48% support shale drilling, and 44% oppose it.

Banning fracking is particularly popular in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. A fracking ban is opposed most strongly in the counties outside Pittsburgh, where much of it takes place.

“There is a general tendency where you see more support for a fracking ban in urban areas,” says Berwood Yost, director of the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College. “The less urbanized you get, the less support a ban would have.”

Another finding: Among registered voters, 48%, support a ban on fracking, while 39% oppose it.

“There’s not a clear consensus in the state about fracking, about whether it’s good or bad, or whether it should be banned or not,” says Yost. “You approach majority support for it, but you have some real differences here.”

Other highlights:

  • Two-thirds of people under 35 favor a fracking ban.
  • Women are more likely to oppose a ban than men. “There is a gap there. It’s not as big as the age gap.”
  • Support also splits among education levels. Those least in favor of a fracking ban are those with a high school degree or less, while those with a college degree are more likely to be in support of a ban.

It’s unclear if banning fracking will prove a winning issue for any particular campaign this year. “Pennsylvanians have reached no consensus on fracking,” says Yost. “They generally may support it, but they may have some environmental concerns. They’re not sure if the economic benefits outweigh the risks.”

Michael Machosky

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife,...