The number of people in favour of fracking for shale gas in the UK has fallen below 50%, a new poll suggests.
Just 49.8% were in favour of shale gas extraction when researchers from the University of Nottingham asked 3,657 people earlier this month.
This is the lowest number in support of fracking since the university started its poll on the issue in 2012.
The latest results found 31.4% were against fracking, while 18.4% were undecided.
"The May 2014 survey confirms that the turn against fracking for shale gas in the UK has deepened," says the report.
And it cites the anti-fracking protests which took place in the village of Balcombe in West Sussex in 2013 as a tipping point when the tide of public opinion towards shale gas extraction began to shift.
Since those protests the number of people against fracking has been steadily rising, it says.
BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin said this was bad news for the government, given that it wanted to encourage shale gas as an alternative to imported gas from Russia.
He said ministers would not be delighted to learn that a second anti-fracking camp was planned for this summer.
Tory peer Lord Howell of Guildford - who apologised last year after saying that fracking should take place in the North East because it was "desolate" – recently spoke about the issue again, and said the Conservative Party could lose votes by pursuing plans to frack.
But the poll, carried out by YouGov on behalf of Nottingham University, suggested that this may not happen as it found support for fracking higher among Tory and UKIP voters – around 68% – while Labour and Lib Dem supporters were generally much less in favour.
The survey also found that an increasing number of people were better educated about the technology and processes behind shale gas extraction.
Older people were found to be more accepting of fracking than younger people. The poll found more than 50% of older people approved of the technology, while among those under 25, as many were now against shale gas as were for it.
The professor organizing the survey, Sarah O'Hara, said the fall in support from under-55s had been so sharp that at first she did not believe the results.
"This is really surprising," she told BBC News.
"Previously the polls had shown a steady trend towards greater understanding of the technology and greater acceptance, but this has gone into reverse and now support is the lowest overall since we started the poll.
Written By: BBC News
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