Public opinion in Pennsylvania has warnings for nearly everyone involved in the debates about natural gas drilling. Forty one per cent of the public believes drilling benefits outweigh problems; 33% believe the reverse; and 26% believe benefits and problems are equal, according to a poll by the Gerald R. Ford School of Policy at the University of Michigan and the Institute of Public Opinion at Muhlenberg College. Over the long-term 50% to 32% the public expects gas production to have more benefits than costs for Pennsylvania. See http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11320/1190186-28.stm#xzz1dsHVo32N for a different interpretation of the poll.
The gas industry should understand that its operations in Pennsylvania and its stances on regulation and legislation affect public opinion and are being watched by a constructively critical public. The public remains supportive narrowly but major splits exist already that can grow or narrow, depending on the performance of the gas industry and whether gas production directly benefits all Pennsylvanians.
The poll also has a warning for environmental advocates, finding that 48% of the public believes environmentalists are overstating drilling impacts. Many Pennsylvanians have credibility issues with both environmentalists and drillers. The media too does not escape the skepticism if not cynicism, with 44% saying the media overblows stories.
The poll offers the Governor a caution, with 60% saying he is too influenced by gas companies when making decisions about taxation and regulation.
On the front and center issue of taxing the industry, 72% of the public favors taxing the industry with opinion more supportive of specific local than general statewide uses of the funds.
This poll offers the wise good food for thought.