WASHINGTON, March 31 (UPI) -- The number of Americans who oppose hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is up 11 percent, from 40 percent to 51 percent in a one-year span, a newly released Gallup poll found.
Gallup's 2016 environment survey, conducted March 2 through 6, found Americans have a clearer position on fracking than they did a year ago,. In 2015, 40 percent said they favored fracking and an equal amount said they opposed it. Another 19 percent said they had no opinion or knew little about it. In 2015, support for fracking slipped to 36 percent and opposition climbed to 51 percent.
The poll found the sharpest decline in support comes from Republicans, from 66 percent support in 2015 to 55 percent in 2016. Republican support still exceeds support by independents (34 percent) and Democrats (25 percent).
"The percentage of Americans with no opinion has dropped to 13 percent, perhaps as the term becomes more commonplace in the culture, or as the media has more extensively covered the arguments for and against fracking," Gallup's Art Swift said in the poll analysis.
Fracking, the process of shooting a high-pressure, water-based chemical mixture into the earth to free oil and gas deposits, has been a source of growing controversy, especially in states that include Texas and Oklahoma where it has been blamed for setting off earthquakes. Environmentalists also fear it could contaminate the drinking water supply.
In the past 12 months, the price of oil has plummeted to between $25 and $60 per barrel from about $120 per barrel in 2014. One of the reasons is because continued fracking now accounts for half of the oil production in the United States.
In 2000, about 23,000 fracking wells produced 102,000 barrels of oil per day in the United States, making up less than 2 percent of the national total. By 2015, the number of frackings wells grew to an estimated 300,000, and production from those wells had grown to more than 4.3 million barrels per day.
"Fracking has become a contentious topic in American life," Swift said. "In recent years, it has been seen as a source of great prosperity for the nation's crude oil producers, yet it has also become part of a global tug of war with Saudi Arabia. The Middle Eastern oil behemoth has been engaged in a pricing battle with American oil companies, with its goal being lower prices to make the cost of fracking too expensive for U.S. companies to pursue."
Gallup used a random sample of 1,019 adults for the poll, which has a margin of sampling error of 4 percentage points.