While energy issues are becoming election issues in local races around the nation, a poll of Pennsylvania voters shows that energy isn’t the first thing on their minds.
Over the weekend, the Wilkes Barre Times Leader released poll results that show the Marcellus shale issue comes in a distant sixth place when voters in Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District were asked to identify their most important election issues.
According to the poll, thirty-eight percent of the northeastern Pennsylvanians who were surveyed identified the Marcellus shale issue as one that they were “more concerned” about. Twenty-eight percent of the voters polled said they were moderately concerned, while nineteen percent responded that they were “less concerned” about the shale issue.
The economy and jobs dominated the poll results with more that eighty percent of respondents saying they were “more concerned” about those two issues respectively. Healthcare, immigration and Social Security also topped the shale issue according to this poll.
This is extremely noteworthy because Pennsylvania is on the front lines of the shale debate, which is also known as the fracking debate. Hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, is a procedure many natural gas developers are using where a highly pressurized liquid is pumped into the ground to breakup rock formations and allow for the extraction of natural gas from previously closed off cavities. In northeast and north central Pennsylvania, where the economic recession has hit particularly hard, the infusion of energy jobs is often welcomed by landowners struggling to make ends meet. But health concerns, including fears about water contamination, have raised eyebrows about the fracking process.
So, if there were ever going to be an area where fracking would become a major election issue you would expect it to be in Pennsylvania. However, in an area with high unemployment, it is easy to see how the economy and jobs could trump the fracking issue. Moreover, I imagine many simply see fracking as a means to creating more jobs and to bolster the local economy in this region of Pennsylvania, which, as the poll reveals, would be another check in the box for economy and jobs categories.
Related on MNN: Is hydraulic fracturing safe?