March 30, 2015

Poll: Illinois voters wary of fracking

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Almost half of Illinois voters -- 48.6 percent -- tend to oppose hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” because of concerns about the environment, according to a new poll conducted by Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. 

By contrast, 31.8 percent believe that fracking should be encouraged for its economic benefits, and 20 percent are not sure about the issue. 

Fracking is a process that utilizes high-pressure injection of water, sand and chemicals to extract oil and natural gas from underground shale formations. 

The poll, taken Feb. 28 through March 10, has a margin of error of 3 percentage points. 

Opposition is stronger in the Chicago area than it is downstate. There are 53.5 percent of Chicago and 51 percent of Chicago suburban voters who believe the practice should not be encouraged, while only 29 percent believe it should be encouraged for economic purposes.  Downstate, 41.3 percent say fracking should be discouraged and 38.3 percent say it should be encouraged. 

John Jackson, a visiting professor at the institute said, “It is interesting to note that the highest level of support for fracking is downstate, where it is likely to take place and have whatever economic benefit and environmental damage it may hold.  Those in Chicago and the suburbs, where it is not likely to have a direct impact, are the most opposed.” 

Jackson added: “For all the national debate and publicity, a large percentage claim to not know much about fracking, and this is particularly surprising downstate where it has been much debated.”  

Voters’ opinions on fracking are split along party lines. Among Democrats, 19.7 percent believe that fracking should be encouraged, while 54.8 percent of Republicans want to encourage the practice. Similarly, a majority of Democrats (61.9 percent) and a minority of Republican (28.8 percent) voters believe that fracking should be discouraged due to environmental impacts. 

Opinions on fracking are strongly influenced by whether a person believes the practice is safe. The majority (89.7 percent) of those who believe fracking is safe also believe that it should be encouraged. Similarly, the majority (92.8 percent) of those who believe fracking is not safe say it should not be encouraged. 

Young people are much less likely than other groups to encourage fracking. 

  • Almost three-fourths (73.8 percent) of respondents ages 18 to 25 believe fracking should not be encouraged due to environmental impacts. Only 11.9 percent of young adults believe the practice should be encouraged for economic reasons. 

Location and political party affiliation appear to influence how much a person has heard about fracking. 

  • People in the city of Chicago have heard more about fracking than those downstate. Forty-two percent of those in Chicago have heard a lot about fracking compared to 29 percent of voters downstate. 
  • Republicans and independents have heard more about fracking than Democrats. Roughly 70 percent of both Republicans (69.5 percent) and independents (70.1 percent) have heard a lot or some about fracking. Only 55.8 percent of Democrats have heard the same. 

Young people and Democrats are less likely than other groups to see fracking as a safe way to extract oil and natural gas. 

  • Young adults (ages 18-25) are nearly twice as likely as people of other ages to believe that fracking is either not very safe or not at all safe. Fifty-nine point five percent of young adults believe the practice is not very safe or not at all safe compared to 34 percent of voters of any other age.
  • The percentage of Republicans who believe fracking is either safe or somewhat safe (61 percent) is over double the percentage of Democrats who believe the same (28.3 percent). One-third (35.4 percent) of independents see the practice as safe. 

These opinions are set within a larger national debate over hydraulic fracturing. Fracking regulations released by the Obama administration on March 20 have received push-back from both parties, with those who support fracking claiming that regulations unnecessarily slow production, and environmentalists claiming the regulations are not strict enough. 

For more information, contact Institute Director David Yepsen at 618/453-4003 or Jackson at 618/303-1240. 

Results of the poll are available here

The Simon Institute Poll interviewed 1,000 registered voters across Illinois. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. This means that if we were to conduct the survey 100 times, in 95 of those instances the results would vary by no more than plus or minus 3 points from the results obtained here. 

Live telephone interviews were conducted by Customer Research International of San Marcos, Texas. Cell phone interviews accounted for 30 percent of the sample. A Spanish language version of the questionnaire and a Spanish-speaking interviewer were made available. Fieldwork was conducted from Feb. 28 through March 10. No auto-dial or “robo polling” is included.  Customer Research International reports no Illinois political clients. The survey was paid for with non-tax dollars from the Institute’s endowment fund.   

Crosstabs for the referenced questions will be on the institute’s website, or directly at

Simon Institute polling data are also archived by three academic institutions for use by scholars and the public. The three open source data repositories are: the University of Michigan’s Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (OpenICPSR;, the University of North Carolina’s The Howard W. Odum Institute for Research in Social Science Dataverse Nework (, and the Simon Institute Collection at OpenSIUC (  

Note: The “Paul Simon Public Policy Institute Poll,” the “Simon Poll” and the “Southern Illinois Poll” are the copyrighted trademarks of the Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University. Use and publication of these polls is encouraged- but only with credit to the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at SIU Carbondale.