A new Franklin & Marshall public opinion poll of registered Pennsylvania voters has found enduring favorable views of the natural gas industry, and strong support for both environmental protection and conserving the state’s public lands.
64 percent of Pennsylvanians have a favorable view of the natural gas industry, but opinion is split (emphasis mine) on whether or not the economic benefits outweigh potential environmental damage, with 40 percent saying they do, 37 percent saying they don't and 22 percent unsure.
Significantly…the poll also shows more than two-thirds of voters - 68 percent - oppose opening more state forest land to drilling.
The latter result in consistent with previous polls that showed strong support for public lands conservation over gas drilling in the Appalachian region and in Western states.
The results, pollsters found, are stable, despite the heated debate that swirls around the issue in Pennsylvania:
The results of the poll, conducted Jan. 22 through Jan. 27, changed little since the same questions were asked more than two years ago, in August 2011. Although there were small shifts, none were outside the poll's margin of error.
Part of that, (highly respected pollster G. Terry Madonna) conjectured, is because the majority of the drilling is happening "in the more remote areas of the state - it's not something most voters have a daily or even frequent contact with."
And it's unlikely to change unless there is some big pollution event, he said: "It's not like there haven't been things that have happened, but they have not been to the degree that has ratcheted up concern."The industry and state leaders should not be sanguine about these numbers - for the former's insecure social license to operate, and the latter's job security.