Birth and Death(?) of the Anti-Fracking Movement: Inferences from Quantity of Coverage Theory
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Public opposition to fracking is one of numerous movements expressing concern about health or environmental risks of a (usually) new technology. These have at their core an esoteric dispute between technical experts, but laypeople also become actively involved, usually as volunteers. They may live close to pertinent sites, motivated by fears for their families and property, or they may be people living farther away, attracted to the opposition for ideological reasons. (Opposition to fracking is a politically liberal position.) Activism is increasingly motivated when the issue is “hot” and diminishes when it cools down. According to Quantity of Coverage Theory (QCT), the “hotness” of an issue – therefore the degree of activism -- largely depends on its presence in the mass media. The American anti-fracking movement arose fairly quickly around 2010–11. News coverage peaked during 2012–14 and is now diminishing. Similar peaks and declines are observed in British and German news media, consistent with the power of central American media to influence news coverage in other industrial nations. Inferentially, from declining news coverage, the anti-fracking movement is waning, perhaps dying. Lacking direct measures of activism, QCT provides a lens through which to see the rise and fall of the movement.
KeywordsHydraulic fracturing Fracking News media Public opposition Methane
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