New poll: New Yorkers overwhelming support fracking moratorium - and clean energy

Last month, NRDC engaged a nationally recognized opinion research firm to conduct polling in New York State to evaluate public attitudes about fracking and clean energy.  Importantly, this is the first statewide poll in at least two years – and perhaps ever – to directly ask residents their views of the now six-year-old de facto moratorium on fracking. 

The results were overwhelming: nearly 8 in 10 New Yorkers support the moratorium, and support crosses geographical, ideological and racial divides.  At the same time, respondents showed tremendous support for renewable energy. 

The upshot is clear: New Yorkers want clean energy, not fracking. Here are some of the key takeaways from the poll:

New Yorkers from all walks of life strongly support the fracking moratorium

Fully 79 percent of those polled support Governor Cuomo’s on-going moratorium on new fracking in the state.  And that support is bipartisan, with 84 percent of Democrats, 74 percent of Independents and 73 percent of Republicans backing it.  Support also extends upstate, with 77 percent of urban upstate residents, 73 percent of upstate rural residents and 60 percent of residents in the counties most likely to experience fracking saying they favor the moratorium.  In addition, support tops three in four among whites (77%), African Americans (85%) and Latinos (86%).

New Yorkers resoundingly favor clean energy

A second major finding of the poll is that the vast majority of New Yorkers want more clean energy and less dirty energy.  A stunning 92 percent of respondents are in favor of increasing the use of solar to meet the state’s future energy needs, while 89 percent support increased wind and 76% want more hydropower.  In stark contrast, majorities of New Yorkers oppose the increased use of coal and nuclear power, and by wide margins (52% oppose to 40% support for coal, and 52% oppose for nuclear versus 48% support).

Further, when asked to choose, New Yorkers pick renewables over natural gas. Of those polled, 61 percent indicated support for development of clean, renewable energy sources over natural gas, while just 25 percent chose gas.

Opposition to fracking outweighs support and holds strong upstate

Like other polls conducted over recent years in New York, our poll showed a clear majority oppose fracking.  Specifically, 56 percent of respondents across the state oppose fracking, while only 35 percent support it.  Urban and rural upstate residents oppose fracking at a rate of 54 percent, compare to 40 and 38 percent who support it, respectively.  In the counties where fracking is most likely to occur, 48 percent oppose it, compared to 44 percent who support it.

New Yorkers fear fracking’s impacts on communities

A fourth significant finding is that most New Yorkers think fracking will negatively impact communities.  Of those polled, 55 percent said they think fracking is generally bad for local communities because of the impacts to water, land and health.  Meanwhile, only 27 percent believe it is generally good for local communities because of jobs, tax revenue and economic development.

Most believe any economic benefits of fracking will be fleeting

While the oil and gas industry loves to trumpet the supposed economic upsides of fracking, New Yorkers aren’t being fooled.  Among respondents, 60 percent believe jobs from fracking are likely to be temporary.  Only 26 percent believe that fracking jobs will be permanent or that new fracking will bring economic revitalization to the state.

What does it all mean?

Across party lines – from the city to the country – New Yorkers have made it clear that they want a better future for this state than those that have been ravaged by the oil and gas industry.  People here know that fracking is a snake oil cure for economic woes, one that comes with steep costs – in the form of water pollution, air contamination, health issues and destroyed communities.  Instead, we want to harness clean energy from the sun and the wind to power our homes, create more jobs and revive our economies for years to come.

The broad support for the moratorium reflects the public's growing awareness of the many scientific studies showing serious risks posed by drilling and fracking, including water contamination, air pollution and negative health impacts. We hope that these powerful polling results will show Governor Cuomo and elected officials across the state that New Yorkers support the existing moratorium on fracking.  Now the Governor should impose a formal minimum 3-year moratorium - as we and the health and medical community have called for - while critical scientific studies continue.

A formal moratorium will also provide crucial space for expansion of the clean energy economy that the Cuomo Administration has done so much to foster, including through last month’s announcement of $5 billion of new investment in clean power over the next 10 years.

With new studies coming out on a nearly weekly basis that show that the risks fracking poses to public health and the environment are real and immediate, New York should continue to be a model of cautious, deliberative decision making on fracking – while also being a shining beacon for the clean energy future.

New Yorkers have made clear that they demand nothing less.