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Risk Anal. 2018 Sep;38(9):1871-1890. doi: 10.1111/risa.12989. Epub 2018 Apr 10.

The Effect of Geographic Proximity to Unconventional Oil and Gas Development on Public Support for Hydraulic Fracturing.

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Department of Sociology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA.
School of Public Policy, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA.
Department of Environment & Society, Quinney College of Natural Resources, Utah State University, Logan, UT, USA.
Department of Communication, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, USA.


With the rapid growth of unconventional oil and natural gas development transforming the U.S. economic and physical landscape, social scientists have increasingly explored the spatial dynamics of public support for this issue-that is, whether people closer to unconventional oil and gas development are more supportive or more opposed. While theoretical frameworks like construal-level theory and the "Not in My Backyard" (or NIMBY) moniker provide insight into these spatial dynamics, case studies in specific locations experiencing energy development reveal substantial variation in community responses. Larger-scale studies exploring the link between proximity and support have been hampered by data quality and availability. We draw on a unique data set that includes geo-coded data from national surveys (nine waves; n = 19,098) and high-resolution well location data to explore the relationship between proximity and both familiarity with and support for hydraulic fracturing. We use two different measures of proximity-respondent distance to the nearest well and the density of wells within a certain radius of the respondent's location. We find that both types of proximity to new development are linked to more familiarity with hydraulic fracturing, even after controlling for various individual and contextual factors, but only distance-based proximity is linked to more support for the practice. When significant, these relationships are similar to or exceed the effects of race, income, gender, and age. We discuss the implications of these findings for effective risk communication as well as the importance of incorporating spatial analysis into public opinion research on perceptions of energy development.


Fracking; geographic proximity; hydraulic fracturing; public opinion; unconventional oil and gas


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