Yet another opinion poll of New York State residents on the issue of drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus (and Utica) Shale. This is the third statewide poll in a month. Like the two polls before it, this one found those those who support drilling, and those who oppose it, are just about evenly split. This most recent poll was done by Marist College and of the three polls, the questions in this one are the most flawed. It’s more like a push-poll—a poll that seeks to push a political message—rather than a poll which seeks to understand public opinion. The exact wording of the four questions asked are listed below, along with MDN commentary. The entire detailed breakout of how various groups responded to each question is embedded at the bottom.
Question #1: 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?
Support: 32% | Oppose: 37% | Unsure: 31%
MDN’s view: This first question is the only one with any value, and even at that its value is questionable. For comparison, last week a Quinnipiac University poll found 47 percent of New Yorkers support drilling, 42 percent oppose it, with 12 percent undecided. A month ago a Siena College poll found 45 percent of New Yorkers support drilling, and 43 percent oppose it. The only value in this question from Marist is that it shows the same overall trend: people who support and people who oppose are about equal numbers in the state.
Question #2: New York State may lift the ban on hydrofracking to allow drilling for natural gas except in state parks, wildlife preserves, and watersheds that supply drinking water. Cities and towns may still be able to ban hydrofracking in their communities. Would you want the city or town where you live to allow or not allow drilling for natural gas on private property?
Allow: 32% | Not allow: 54% | Unsure: 14%
MDN’s view: Wait, what? Cities and towns can still ban drilling even with new regulations from the state? Not according to New York State law! The question/comment is a false premise, which renders the rest of the question senseless. The final part of the question, if you take it at face value, is distressing. It says to MDN that 54% of New Yorkers are fine with violating an individual’s Constitutional right to private property—showing a rank ignorance among New Yorkers about one of the most basic and fundamental principles upon which the United States was founded. If only George Washington and Tom Jefferson could see us now!
Question #3: 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?
Oil independence: 33% | Protect water: 59% | Unsure: 7%
MDN’s view: The first of two very similar questions. Both questions force a false dichotomy—they force someone to chose between two things. It creates the impression you can have one or the other, but not both, when in fact, you CAN have both. It’s not energy independence vs. the environment. It’s energy independence AND the environment—let’s do both!
Question #4: 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?
Create jobs: 41% | Protect water: 51% | Unsure: 8%
MDN’s view: See question #3. Same thing. You can have jobs AND protect the environment at the same time.
*Marist Poll Press Release (Aug 16, 2011) – 8/16: Nearly Half of Residents Near Indian Point Want to Keep Power Plant Open