Study to track trends in the public’s opinion on fracking

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A new study involving the University of Stirling will investigate and help understand the public response to fracking across the UK.

Working with academics at Exeter, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt universities, experts from the Faculty of Natural Sciences will shed light on how reactions to hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – for shale gas unfold at national, regional and local levels.

Dr Jennifer Dickie, who is leading the Stirling strand of the research, explained: “Understanding public attitudes and engagement with shale gas needs to consider specific geographical context.

“By integrating existing environmental and economic datasets, with new data arising from national surveys, social media and case studies, this project will explore how public attitudes and community engagement might vary across geographic areas, and offer new insights on how socio-economic, political and environmental factors may shape such responses.”

Dr Jennifer Dickie

Dr Jennifer Dickie

The project – funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council – will begin on September 1. It will develop new understandings by integrating perspectives from human geography and social psychology, drawing on core concepts of geographical differentiation, spatial proximity and place attachment.

The project will: produce a comprehensive map of UK public attitudes to shale gas, charting differences between geographical areas; provide a comprehensive analysis of the effect of spatial proximity on UK public attitudes using georeferenced datasets; capture how public attitudes and community responses unfold over time; and critically investigate the rationales and practices of stakeholder engagement with shale gas communities.

The study will involve engagement with national and local stakeholders from public, private and non-governmental organisation sectors.

Professor Patrick Devine-Wright, from the University of Exeter, is the Principal Investigator.

He said: “Given government support for shale gas, local controversy and community objections, it is very important to have a rigorous social science evidence base.

“That has not been the case up to now in the UK. This research will provide important evidence for communities and civil society, industry and policymakers in order to better understand public attitudes and community responses to shale gas.”

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