Public support for fracking has fallen to new lows, a Government survey has revealed.
The results come just weeks after gas exploration firm Cuadrilla was given the go-ahead to frack for shale gas in Lancashire.
The latest figures from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy show that just 17 per cent of people backed the process of extracting shale gas.
That is compared with a third who opposed it, and just under half (48 per cent) who had no opinion.
It is the lowest level of support for fracking since the public attitudes tracker started asking about shale gas.
It comes amid increased awareness of the process, with about four-fifths of those quizzed claiming to know something about it.
The Government has continued its push to develop a shale industry in the UK, which it claims could boost jobs, the economy and energy security.
The Government recently allowed fracking to go ahead in Preston New Road, Little Plumpton, overturning a decision by Lancashire County Council.
A similar application for Roseacre Wood, near Elswick, was not approved. Barbara Richardson, of the Roseacre Awareness Group, said the findings came as no surprise.
She said: “We expect this will fall to even lower levels, especially as this particular survey was taken before the Secretary of State decided to overrule Lancashire County Council’s decision to refuse Cuadrilla permission to frack at two sites in Lancashire.
“Many people have been angered not only by the thought that fracking could be forced upon us but also over the lack of local democracy and localism.”
Opponents of fracking questioned most commonly cited damage to the natural environment, while those in favour thought it was important to use energy sources, it was good for local jobs and investment and reduced dependency on fossil fuels.
Support for renewables remained high, with almost eight in 10 backing the clean technologies.
The survey of 2,080 UK households found that 71 per cent of people backed onshore wind – the highest level since the tracker began – while 75 per cent were in favour of offshore wind, and 82 per cent backed solar.
The poll, conducted shortly after the Government finally gave the go-ahead to a new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point, Somerset, also saw support for nuclear energy fall to 33 per cent, from 36 per cent three months earlier and 38 per cent in the spring.
Francis Egan, chief executive officer of Cuadrilla, said: “We know that there is a lot of scaremongering and misinformation which makes it difficult for people to establish the true facts about shale gas exploration.
“As we move ahead with our highly monitored operations at Preston New Road we will demonstrate how safe the process is.”