Pennsylvanians back Biden, split on fracking — poll

Source: By Scott Waldman, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Pennsylvanians are almost evenly split on the issue of fracking, though slightly more of them are opposed to the practice, a new poll shows.

Among 1,225 registered Pennsylvania voters, 52% oppose fracking, while 48% support it, according to a CBS News/YouGov poll released Sunday. The poll was conducted Aug. 4-7. It has a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a controversial process in which a mix of chemicals, water and sand is blasted underground to create cracks through which oil and natural gas can escape.

Thousands of fracking wells are spread across Pennsylvania, though the practice is controversial. Critics say fracking leads to health problems and environmental degradation. Supporters contend that fracking creates well-paying jobs.

The issue also plays a big role in the state’s politics, including this year’s presidential contest. President Trump has tried to argue that he would be friendlier to energy interests than Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

The same CBS News/YouGov poll showed that 45% of respondents think Trump would do a better job with oil and gas exploration, while 42% think former Vice President Biden would do a better job. Biden is leading Trump 50% to 41% among likely voters in Pennsylvania, the poll shows.

Trump’s campaign has ramped up its messaging in Pennsylvania to portray Biden as an enemy of the state’s robust fracking industry. The new polling suggests, however, that the effort is not moving voters across partisan lines.

Biden currently leads Trump in Pennsylvania by 5 percentage points, 49% to 44%, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average.

Pennsylvania is a key swing state in November, and Trump has sought to soften Biden’s strength there by claiming, falsely, that Biden would ban fracking.

Biden has proposed a climate policy that would reduce U.S. reliance on fossil fuels over time, but the new polling suggests that this approach may not hurt him much in one of the country’s major oil and gas states.

Biden’s plan would ban new oil and gas wells on public lands but would not shut down existing wells. Republican super political action committees have been running ads claiming that Biden would kill 600,000 fracking jobs in the state.

In recent press conferences and public appearances, Trump has tried to use the Democrats’ climate agenda to scare his supporters.

Last week, in Texas, another state where the energy industry has a significant role and where polling shows a tight race, Trump claimed Biden would shut down the energy industry.

Trump linked Biden to more progressive lawmakers, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and said they would shut down “oil, gas, guns and God.”