Spring 2013 UT Energy Poll Shows Consumer Opposition to Exporting Natural Gas

 Thirty-nine percent of Americans believe the United States should keep the natural gas it produces at home rather than sell it to other countries, the latest University of Texas Energy Poll reports today. Only 28 percent of those surveyed say they support exporting domestically produced natural gas to other countries. Responses differ by gender, with 33 percent of men favoring the export of natural gas and 22 percent of women favoring it.

The online nationwide survey, conducted March 1120, indicates consumers generally favor increased domestic energy production, but they have mixed feelings about the current natural gas boom. In particular, the survey illustrates how sharply divided the public remains about the use of hydraulic fracturing (also known as "fracking"), which has led to the current surge in domestic production.

Although poll findings on energy issues often reflect partisan bias, Democrats and Republicans report similar responses to the question of whether the United States should export natural gas to other countries. About 37 percent of survey respondents from both major political parties oppose natural gas exports, and 30 percent favor them. Those identifying themselves as independent politically are most likely to oppose exporting natural gas (44 percent).

Survey participants who say they are familiar with hydraulic fracturing are more likely to support natural gas exports (37 percent) than those who are not familiar with hydraulic fracturing (20 percent). (For additional details, see Table 1.) 

Table 1, Natural Gas Exports


Hydraulic Fracturing Remains a Divisive Issue

Overall, 45 percent of respondents familiar with hydraulic fracturing say they support its use for fossil fuel extraction, down from 48 percent a year ago, while 41 percent say they oppose the practice.

However, of this group, only 22 percent of Democrats support hydraulic fracturing, while 60 percent oppose it, and 71 percent of Republicans support the practice, while 20 percent oppose it.

Consumers continued to express concern about possible harm to the environment from the use of hydraulic fracturing, with the potential for water contamination again topping the list of specific concerns.

"More consumers 43 percent today versus 38 percent a year ago say there should be more regulation of hydraulic fracturing," said Sheril Kirshenbaum, director of the UT Energy Poll. "Still, we also see steady support for the expansion of domestic natural gas development."

Other findings from the UT Energy Poll include:

  • The scientific community continues to be the most trusted source for accurate, impartial information on hydraulic fracturing among those familiar with the process, 40 percent of respondents trust the scientific community, a number that has remained constant since last fall. 
  • Forty-one percent of respondents say hydraulic fracturing on public lands should be promoted, while 36 percent say it should be banned. 
  • The percentage of Americans who say that climate change is occurring has held steady at 73 percent since the September 2012 poll.

Data from The University of Texas at Austin Energy Poll were weighted using U.S. Census Bureau figures, as well as propensity scores, to ensure the sample's composition reflects the actual U.S. population. The poll was developed by the McCombs School of Business and launched in October 2011 to provide an objective, authoritative look at consumer attitudes and perspectives on key energy issues. It is designed to help inform national discussion, business planning and policy development.

For charts and more information, including information on the poll's funding and administration, visit www.utenergypoll.utexas.edu or contact Sheril Kirshenbaum, UT Energy Poll Director, sheril.kirshenbaum@mccombs.utexas.edu, 512-232-5942.