Anti-drilling activists love using “fracking” as a double entendre (“Don’t frack with us”) because it bears a resemblance to one of George Carlin’s seven dirty words.
Big names in the industry have even poked fun at themselves to downplay the harshness of the word:
“I’m the biggest fracker in the world. I’ve done it 16,000 times since 1989 and I’m proud of it,” Chesapeake Energy Chief Executive Officer Aubrey McClendon said at a speech last year.
But maybe Mr. McClendon should consider using a new word.
In a new study by the LSU Public Policy Research Lab, supported by the Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs, researchers concluded that the negative connotation of the word “fracking,” separate from environmental concerns, generated a negative public sentiment.
Results showed that regardless of whether the question used the word “fracking,” roughly equal percentages of those surveyed heard a lot or some about hydraulic fracturing. The chart below shows that “fracking” does have an effect on whether respondents thought the process was safe and whether states should encourage the process.
As the political debate over drilling continues, the study examined the effect of the word “fracking” by self-reported party affiliation. It turned out that Democrats found the process to be safer when the word “fracking” wasn’t used, but support among Republicans didn’t change. But both parties showed an increase in support for states drilling when the word “fracking” wasn’t used.
“Public aversion to the term likely results from the harsh consonants and perhaps the obvious similarity to a certain other four letter word,” said Michael Climek, PPRL’s operations manager, in a press release. “And this research shows that the unpleasant sound of the word is at least partially responsible for residents thinking ‘fracking’ is unsafe and that it should not be pursued by the state of Louisiana. If businesses and legislators use another word or description, constituents may be more willing to support hydraulic fracturing.”