Scale matters: Variation in perceptions of shale gas development across national, state, and local levels

Darrick T.N. Evensen, Richard Stedman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We explore the extent to which public perceptions of shale gas development vary across three survey samples--one each at: (1) national (USA), (2) state (NY and PA), and (3) regional levels (ten counties in the Marcellus Shale). We compare results from a survey of Marcellus Shale region residents (n = 1202) to those from a similar survey of a US sample (n = 1625), with an oversampling of residents from NY and PA (n = 516). A key difference between the local sample and the other two samples is that respondents? beliefs about impacts of development explain much more variance in support for/opposition to development in the local sample. The beliefs about development that associate most closely with support/opposition vary across scale as well. Nevertheless, a few core values are important for predicting support/opposition across all samples. These results suggest a threshold effect in that local perceptions of shale gas development do not seem to extend far beyond the counties immediately affected by development. Construal level theory and social representations theory help explain why perceptions at the local level may differ from the regional and national levels. We consider implications for communication and social science research on energy development broadly.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-21
Number of pages8
JournalEnergy Research & Social Science
Issue numberOct 2016
Early online date21 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • Shale gas
  • Construal level theory
  • Social representations
  • Proximity


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