The Real News About the Marist Opinion Poll on Marcellus Shale Drilling in New York State

Marist College (Poughkeepsie, NY) just completed a statewide poll in New York State to find out if residents generally support or generally oppose hydraulic fracturing. MDN has embedded the poll results below so you can read it for yourself. The standard coverage of this poll in the media, the “big news” if you will, is that New Yorkers are about evenly split: 41 percent generally oppose hydraulic fracturing, and 38 percent support it—a statistical dead heat with the margin of error +/- 5 percent. Marist says a “notable” 21 percent are unsure. But MDN believes the “real news” in this poll is confirmation that the shale gas drilling debate in New York—and nationwide—is (sadly) more about politics than science and common sense. The proof is in the numbers.

The first question asked those who were surveyed was:

Hydraulic fracturing, often referred to as hydrofracking, is a process of splitting rocks underground to remove natural gas. From what you have read or heard, do you generally support or oppose hydrofracking?

While the average of those who oppose or support drilling is about evenly divided as noted above, here’s how it breaks down by political party, and political philosophy. These are the numbers you won’t find mentioned in mainstream media coverage:

  • Democrat: 34% Support; 47% Oppose; 18% Unsure
  • Republican: 49% Support; 27% Oppose; 24% Unsure
  • Non-enrolled: 36% Support; 46% Oppose; 18% Unsure

As for political philosophy:

  • Liberal: 31% Support; 51% Oppose; 18% Unsure
  • Conservative: 49% Support; 29% Oppose; 23% Unsure
  • Tea Party supporters: 55% Support; 31% Oppose; 14% Unsure

The second question asked by Marist was nonsensical:

Those who support this process say it makes us more independent from foreign oil and creates jobs. Those who oppose this process say it contaminates community water supplies and the environment. Which do you think is more important: Making us more independent from foreign oil or preserving water supplies and the environment?

The question is flawed and so the results are meaningless. It assumes an either/or premise: Either we get independence from foreign oil or we preserve water supplies and the environment. Why can’t both be done?

The third question uses the same false argument, this time comparing energy independence with job creation:

Those who support this process say it makes us more independent from foreign oil and creates jobs. Those who oppose this process say it contaminates community water supplies and the environment. Which do you think is more important: Creating jobs or preserving water supplies and the environment?

The final question was for those living in New York City. They were asked where the City gets its water supplies from, with the option of four answers. Here’s how they responded:

  • The Hudson River: 11%
  • Upstate Reservoirs: 75%
  • The Long Island Sound: 1%
  • Unsure: 13%

For readers outside of New York State, response number two above, Upstate Reservoirs, is the correct answer. So the news from this question is that a full 25%, one-quarter of all New York City residents, don’t know where their water supplies come from.

*Marist College Poll Press Release (May 17, 2011) – Hydrofracking in NYS: No Consensus Among Residents … About One in Five Unsure

  • RHouck

    I work in NYC, live in the reservoir part of Westchester County and own a lot of land in Wayne County. (I have a special license to fish in the reservoir.) I too was amazed to learn that the Delaware is a source of drinking water for NYC. Philadelphia and Trenton, sure, but NYC? I found the following on the web (the source of all information, right or wrong). I DO wonder if NYC is really still dependent on water from the Delaware. Has the population in NYC gone up or down since 1930? One must remember that NYC is where people come to SPEND the money they make elsewhere. So if they create pollution to make their millions, that does not mean they want to LIVE near that pollution. The same is true of Scranton – from the 1850’s to the Depression, Scranton was terribly polluted. The people with money (even many without) went to Wayne County for cleaner air and water. Here’s the history of NYC and the Delaware: 

    In 1927 the Board of Water Supply submitted a plan to the Board of Estimate
    and Apportionment for the development of the upper portion of the Rondout (NY)  watershed and tributaries of the Delaware River within the State of New York.
    This project was approved in 1928. Work was subsequently delayed by an action
    brought by the State of New Jersey in the Supreme Court of the United States to
    enjoin the City and State of New York from using the waters of any Delaware
    River tributary. In May 1931 the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the
    right of the City to augment its water supply from the headwaters of the
    Delaware River. Construction of the Delaware System was begun in March 1937. The
    Delaware System was placed in service in stages: The Delaware Aqueduct was
    completed in 1944, Rondout Reservoir in 1950, Neversink Reservoir in 1954,
    Pepacton Reservoir in 1955 and Cannonsville Reservoir in 1964.

  • Bob C.

    I wonder why people resond to polls when they have no idea what they are talking about.  This is the result of the press and the dumbing down of America. 

  • Otegogas

    Where on this earth can you point to where oil & gas extraction are being done without creating monumental environmental and health problems (not including off-shore drilling operations)?

    Whether it is Shell in Indonesia, Chevron in Africa or South America, or Cabot in PA (etc., etc.), the results are the same.

  • Letty

    In WV the mineral estate can be severed from the real estate (surface). In WV, the surface owners have little to no protection when gas drillers come to call. The mineral owners in WV trump surface owners and have a sort of eminent domain over them even those these mineral owners don’t have ownership of the real estate. One can say that it is” buyer beware” and these perspective surface owners should have researched the property purchase before buying. However, there are gas leases signed decades ago where the perspective buyer of the property never was shown either by the banks, realtors or the buyer’s attorney the gas lease before purchase.  Deeds were not made available until the day of the closing–a little late for research.  There were buyers that came from states where mineral severance wasn’t an issue so were unaware the questions they should have been asking. Now these surface owners many years later are left holding the bag wondering what environmental and health issues may result from drilling on their surface. They worry about their properties being devalued. They worry if they will be able to find  buyers willing to purchase properties with Marcellus wells or gas leases on them. They wonder if  banks will  finance mortgages on these properties or will insurance companies think these properties are too risky to insure. There are thousands of personal stories out there why people are concerned about Marcellus gas drilling so don’t try to pigeonhole people into neat little categories. 

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