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