Polling reveals perceptions in Marcellus/Utica region

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A recent survey of residents living in the heart of the Marcellus/Utica natural gas basin provides key insights into the perceptions of the energy industry. Tens of billions of dollars in development are already under construction or have been announced in the counties along the Ohio River in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia where the live-telephone polling was conducted. Investments include ethane crackers, power plants, natural gas midstream operations and manufacturers.

“Even though there has been almost 10 years of public outreach in these three states, there are still swaths of people in this epicenter region of the Marcellus and Utica who can learn more,” explained Graham Godwin, lead researcher at Orion Strategies.

The surveyed region followed counties along the Ohio River, starting in the Parkersburg/Marietta area all the way to Beaver County, Pennsylvania where an ethane cracker is currently under construction.

Key Takeaways

  • 72% of area respondents trusted industries operating in the area, while 66% trusted oil and natural gas industry operating in the same area. Trustworthiness was higher among older respondents.  
  • 25% of respondents reported that they or someone close to them works for the oil and natural gas industry.  
  • Oil and Natural Gas ranked highest with a 33% plurality in response to the question of which energy source would give America the best chance at energy self-sufficiency.  
  • Two-thirds of respondents support utilizing hydraulic fracturing to extract oil and natural gas with only 28% opposed.  
  • A whopping 83% support increased production of oil and natural gas in their respective counties.  
  • 89% of respondents agree with developing oil and natural gas resources so that the United States is less dependent on foreign oil.  
  • 79% agree that development of oil and natural gas has led to millions of new jobs and economic growth, while also providing significant tax dollars for state and local communities to fund schools, roads and first responders. 
  • Only 43% agreed that human activity is a direct cause of global warming.  
  • 69% agreed with the statement that the oil and natural gas industry is committed to not only the health and safety of its employees and contractors, but also the people of the communities in which it operates.
  • 40% of respondents believe that the energy companies place a priority on hiring local labor.

Graham explained, “This area represents the very heart of the oil and gas region of the Marcellus and Utica where numerous projects are expected over the next decade. It is important to see how everyday citizens in the area felt about a number of issues surrounding production of oil and natural gas.”

The survey also tested a number of institutions, finding that Building and Construction Trades were trusted most at 73%, with the United States Environmental Protection Agency trusted least of those tested at only 46%.

The live-interview telephone survey was conducted among historic, residents age 18 and over in counties along the Ohio River in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia between April 3 and April 6, 2018. A total of 600 respondents completed the entire survey – giving the poll a 4 +/- margin of error with a 95 percent confidence rate. The sample was proportionate to age and gender. Both cell phones and landline telephones were called in all counties. Partisan registration among respondents was 46 percent Democratic, 39 percent Republican and 15 percent Independents – reflecting the average of the region.

This article was featured in the West Virginia Press Association newsletter, and can be viewed on their website.