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Tapping Into Feelings About Gas Exploration

While energy companies are searching beneath Pennsylvania and New York for natural gas, social scientists are tapping into residents’ feelings about the gas-exploration boom.

Kathy Brasier, an assistant professor of rural sociology, surveyed people in 21 Pennsylvania counties and eight New York counties to find out how much they know about efforts to extract natural gas from the Marcellus shale and whether or not they support such efforts.

“Our main objective was to establish baseline data so that as we repeat the survey over the development of Marcellus shale exploration and drilling, we can track changes in people’s attitudes,” said Brasier.

Gas drilling worker (photo courtesy of Bloomberg, Getty Images)Based on the responses of nearly 2,000 participants, the survey revealed that a significant number of people have not yet formed opinions or have no knowledge about Marcellus shale drilling. Of those reporting knowledge about the issue, 45 percent said they support drilling, 33 percent said they neither support nor oppose drilling, and 21 percent said they oppose drilling.

Brasier said that there was more opposition to drilling among respondents in New York (31 percent opposed) than in Pennsylvania (19 percent opposed), perhaps due to the fact that drilling has not yet been approved in New York.

According to Brasier, concern about the environmental impacts of drilling was among the top reasons people cited for opposing drilling, while the promise of new jobs was given as a reason for supporting drilling.

Photo: © Bloomberg, Getty Images