BBC survey suggests support for fracking in north west
More people are in favour of fracking for shale gas in the north west than opposed, a BBC survey suggests.
The poll of 1,941 people indicated 44% of those who know about fracking support it, while 34% are against. The poll found 22% are undecided.
Seventy-three per cent of those in favour said they still had concerns about the process.
Energy firm Igas said the results were "encouraging" but protesters said fracking would be "disastrous".
Fracking - or hydraulic fracturing - is a technique in which water and chemicals are pumped into shale rock at high pressure to extract gas.
Market research company TNS asked a cross-section of people from across the north west aged 16 or above for their views on fracking in a four-week survey beginning 30 October.
The survey - commissioned by BBC North West Tonight - revealed that 529 people had not heard of the process. Another 10 people did not know if they had heard of it.
Of the 1,402 participants who had, 610 (44%) said they supported fracking in the north west, 482 (34%) were against and 310 (22%) said they did not know.
Those who knew about fracking were also asked if they had any worries about the process.
Almost three-quarters (73%) said they did, with the majority expressing concerns over the risk of earth tremors and water pollution.
Rachel Thompson, a member of Frack Free Greater Manchester, said: "The fear that people have of fracking is fully justified - I'm surprised at the 27% who are not.
"When people see this around their town and neighbourhoods they are going to be really angry about it.
"It will be disastrous if fracking goes ahead," she said.
The group, which has been campaigning against a drilling site in Salford, said its surveys revealed people were opposed to extracting shale gas in the area.
Helen Rimmer, Friends of the Earth North West campaigner, added: "Local people are rightly worried about risks to the environment, including water contamination."
Igas said the results of the BBC survey showed it was "making progress in explaining natural gas extraction to our local communities".
The company has permission to start drilling to see what type of gas or oil can be found at Barton Moss in Salford.
A spokeswoman added that the firm "must continue" to work with communities over fracking concerns.
Fracking was temporarily banned in the UK after it was blamed for two earth tremors in Blackpool in 2011.
Igas said the government had introduced monitoring systems that would "halt operations immediately" if a seismic event of magnitude greater than 0.5 was detected.
Another shale gas company, Cuadrilla, was granted planning permission for exploration activities at the Anna's Road site in Lancashire April 2010.
But it has suspended all drilling in the area until 2014.
Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla Resources, said: "We acknowledge that people still have questions and concerns which we are committed to addressing as we seek to unlock Lancashire's energy potential safely and sensibly."
The company claims its explorations in Lancashire's Bowland basin have found the 1,200 sq km licence area holds at least 200 trillion cubic feet of gas.
Cuadrilla has sites in Elswick, Grange Hill, near Singleton, Preese Hall, near Weeton and Becconsall, near Banks, all Lancashire.