Many Voices in the Room: A National Survey Experiment on How Framing Changes Views Toward Fracking in the United States


Hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) is one of the most controversial energy production processes in the United States and globally. In democracies, maintaining energy policy on politically salient and controversial issues, such as the use of fracking, depends on popular support at local if not national levels. We therefore study the effectiveness of widely cited arguments about fracking in a representative sample of the United States. Consistent with framing theory, we find that arguments that emphasize the environmental costs of fracking drive down support, while arguments emphasizing job creation and energy security increase it. However, we also show that presenting competing information from pro-fracking and anti-fracking frames together neutralizes individual framing effects, albeit not for every combination of frames and counter-frames. Framing effects become stronger when arguments, particularly about water contamination, are congruent with respondents’ pre-existing beliefs, which may lead to further polarization in the public debate. The exact kinds of arguments and how they are paired with one another do matter–a finding that is relevant for our understanding of public opinion on climate change and renewable energy policy more broadly..

Energy Research & Social Science 56: 101213. [PDF] [Data and code]