Study: Majority don't understand fracking

Hydraulic fracturing may be a hot topic of debate, but few know what the term "fracking" actually means, according to a recent survey.

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The poll, gathered by researchers at Oregon State, George Mason and Yale universities, found that more than half of those surveyed reported knowing little or nothing of fracking. And nearly 60 percent of the 1,061 respondents had no opinion on the subject, the Casper Star-Tribune reports.

With natural gas development booming and set to put the United States on track as the top exporter of the gas, the study's authors hope their findings will promote an educated conversation between lawmakers and their constituents.

"The fact that half of the people we surveyed know little if anything about fracking suggests that there may be an opportunity to educate the American citizenry in a non-partisan way about this important issue," said Hilary Boudet, a public policy expert at Oregon State and the study’s lead author.

"The question is who will lead that discussion?"

The survey also found that 20 percent were opposed to fracking while 22 percent said they support it. Women were more likely to oppose fracking.

"In some areas of the country, including New York and Pennsylvania, people are more familiar with the issue but opinions are still divided as they try to balance the economic and energy benefits against environmental and community impacts," Boudet said.

Shale gas makes up 23 percent of the nation's natural gas production. It is estimated that will increase to 49 percent by 2035, according to the Energy Information Administration.