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Savannah Schmutzer

Patterns in Fracking Support

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Patterns in Fracking Support

Fracking support is basically arbitrary, right?

Well, it seems there are established patterns that can help us predict some level of fracking support. Fracking has been a controversial topic since its early beginnings. Voters often point to its long-term environmental impacts, sound pollution, and questionable proximity to residencies. In Colorado, this phenomena is all too true.  


Figure 1. Fracking Rig Near Households. Taken on April 8 2019. Retrieved from

Fracking seems to create two extreme positions—those who support it and those who hate it. In a state like Colorado, there are too many variables to consider to draw only two positions. In our state, we have to consider jobs, revenue, and population growth among many others. We don’t have the luxury of making this a “yay or nay” issue.


So, how can we reasonably predict who will support fracking and who won’t? While it may seem insensitive to cast generalizations, researchers have found proven patterns or variables that can reasonably predict the likelihood of an individual to support fracking. Some of these variables may come as a surprise, and some of these are just based on common sense.


Fracking support is driven by politics, demographics, and public perception. 


As citizens, we can see the influence of political affiliation on the stances taken by our elected officials. Democrats likely favor the restriction of fracking citing environmental concerns—some candidates may even advocate for banning fracking altogether in the exclusive pursuit of clean energy. Alternatively, Republicans are far more sympathetic to oil and gas development. These candidates will likely see the benefit of job growth and revenue hikes as outweighing the environmental concerns.


One author summarized this dynamic well. Author Klara Zwickl stated, “"[we should] recognize that the politics and science of fracking are interrelated and co-produce one another.”[1] Fundamentally, it is impossible to separate politics from fracking and vice versa. From an initial reaction, this dynamic may sound discouraging. Many might argue, “Consider the science!” or “Read the reports!”. But, if we were being honest with ourselves, our political affiliation drives much of our support (or criticism) on many key issues—and fracking is no exception.


 Additionally, our demographics influence our stances on fracking. We can further break this down into variables like income levels, economic health, and ethnicity. A group of authors wrote in Energy Policy on this specific issue by arguing for a correlation between higher poverty rates within households and higher support for fracking.[2] We can further speculate on this point by researching what types of jobs or industries these individuals usually work in. These people are typically employed within blue-collar industries. On the flipside, other researchers have found new correlations between the economic health of a state and the environmental sympathies within a state. Researcher Daniel Kluttz makes this a two-part argument. He says that “(a) the more economically healthy the state, and (b) the greater the environmental movement’s organizational capacity in a state, the more likely the state will regulate the fracking industry or ban it altogether.”[3] So, in a diverse state like Colorado, we can reasonably break this issue down by county. Weld County employs many blue-collar workers that will likely support fracking. Other metropolitan counties like Arapahoe County with well-established environmental organizations will likely oppose fracking.


Lastly, we cannot underestimate the power of public perception. People’s opinions can be swayed by how information is presented. In part, some of this can be determined from upbringing or community culture. We often vote alongside our families or our communities. Without a doubt, much of how the fracking information is presented is dictated by the media or local leaders.[4] People are more willing to accept fracking if it is painted in a light that will benefit them or the community. People do not want to vote for an oil expansion bill if it means additional sound pollution. Additionally, people do not want to vote for a restriction bill if it means many of their neighbors will lose their jobs. Local leaders or companies wanting to expand fracking understand this dynamic. The information needs to be portrayed in a way that will benefit the voter—there is no skirting this point.



While there was a huge spike beginning in Hickenlooper’s term in 2012, much of the oil production has tapered off in 2020. This is perhaps indicative of the overall national trends in oil and gas production. Gov. Jared Polis has made his personal stance clear—Colorado is moving in the direction of clean energy. This push will undeniably have massive implications for its citizens and Colorado’s economy. 


Regardless of the energy direction of the state, fracking support is still driven by politics, demographics, and public perception. People will fall on both sides, and even somewhere in between. There is too much at stake to treat this issue lightly. To be simply “for” or “against” is treating the overall issue carelessly. At the very least, we need to recognize the motivating factors behind fracking support as detailed in this article. So, even with the nationwide push for clean energy, fracking maintains its relevance as an industry sustaining many families and dividing many states.


[1] Zwickl, K. (2019). The demographics of fracking: A spatial analysis for four U.S. states. Ecological Economics161, 202–215.

[2] Howell, E. L., Li, N., Akin, H., Scheufele, D. A., Xenos, M. A., & Brossard, D. (2017). How do U.S. state residents form opinions about “fracking” in social contexts? A multilevel analysis. Energy Policy106, 345–355.

[3] Kluttz, D. (2019). Raising the stakes: the effects of the environmental movement, industry, and states’ institutional and material environments on the regulation of fracking. Socio-Economic Review17(1), 7–35.



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