Risk communication scholars have examined public perception of scientific consensus on a variety of politically controversial risk topics; social-psychological factors that shape such views (i.e., political ideology); and effects on issue attitudes. Few studies, however, have combined these antecedents and outcomes within a single framework – one that describes how politically polarized attitudes emerge via ideologically-divergent perceptions of scientific agreement. We address this shortcoming in the context of an emerging risk topic - unconventional oil and natural gas development (UOGD) in the United States – that is politically controversial and where scientific agreement on specific impacts along with value-laden assessments of benefit and risk are subjects of scholarly and public debate. Using a quota survey of United States adults (n = 700), we find that political conservatism heightened support indirectly via: (1) perceived scientific consensus that benefits outweigh the risks and, in turn, the belief that UOGD’s health, economic, and environmental impacts in the United States have been positive and (2) lower perception of scientific consensus that risks outweigh benefits, which likewise heightened beliefs that aforementioned impacts have been positive. We discuss implications for risk communication research related to energy development.