Understanding public perspectives on fracking in the United States using social media big data

Gong, X., Lu, Y., Beene, D., Li, Z. , Hu, T., Morgan, M. and Lin, Y. (2023) Understanding public perspectives on fracking in the United States using social media big data. Annals of GIS, 29(1), pp. 21-35. (doi: 10.1080/19475683.2022.2121856)

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People’s attitudes towards hydraulic fracturing (fracking) can be shaped by socio-demographics, economic development, social equity and politics, environmental impacts, and fracking-related information. Existing research typically conducts surveys and interviews to study public attitudes towards fracking among a small group of individuals in a specific geographic area, where limited samples may introduce bias. Here, we compiled geo-referenced social media big data from Twitter during 2018–2019 for the entire United States to present a more holistic picture of people’s attitudes towards fracking. We used a multiscale geographically weighted regression (MGWR) to investigate county-level relationships between the aforementioned factors and percentages of negative tweets concerning fracking. Results indicate spatial heterogeneity and varying scales of those associations. Counties with higher median household income, larger African American populations, and/or lower educational level are less likely to oppose fracking, and these associations show global stationarity in all contiguous US counties. Eastern and Central US counties with higher unemployment rates, counties east of the Great Plains with less fracking sites nearby, and Western and Gulf Coast region counties with higher health insurance enrolments are more likely to oppose fracking activities. These three variables show clear East-West geographical divides in influencing public perspective on fracking. In counties across the southern Great Plains, negative attitudes towards fracking are less often vocalized on Twitter as the share of Republican voters increases. These findings have implications for both predicting public perspectives and needed policy adjustments. The methodology can also be conveniently applied to investigate public perspectives on other controversial topics.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Li, Dr Ziqi
Authors: Gong, X., Lu, Y., Beene, D., Li, Z., Hu, T., Morgan, M., and Lin, Y.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
Journal Name:Annals of GIS
Publisher:Taylor and Francis
ISSN (Online):1947-5691
Published Online:10 September 2022
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2022 The Authors
First Published:First published in Annals of GIS 29(1): 21-35
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons license

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