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Most Americans know little or nothing about fracking, according to a survey by researchers at Oregon State, George Mason and Yale universities.

More than half of the study’s 1,061 respondents reported knowing little or nothing of fracking. And almost 60 percent of those surveyed said they had no opinion on the subject, the Casper (Wyoming) Star Tribune said.

Those findings run counter to the often contentious debates seen in Washington and state capitals around the country, where policy makers are weighing the benefits of increased oil and natural gas production against potential environmental damages, the Star Tribune said.

“The fact that half of the people we surveyed know little if anything about fracking suggests that there may be an opportunity to educate the American citizenry in a non-partisan way about this important issue,” said Hilary Boudet, a public policy expert at Oregon State and the study’s lead author. “The question is who will lead that discussion?”

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, means injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the ground at high pressure, causing it to fracture and release the oil and natural gas trapped inside.

Fracking is being used now in major shale formations in Texas, North Dakota, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere. In Wyoming, 90 percent of oil and gas wells use fracking. Fracking is the main reason for the U.S. oil and gas production boom.

“About 20 percent of respondents said they were opposed to fracking. Women were more likely to oppose fracking, as were those more familiar with the process. Opponents were apt to associate fracking with environmental degradation, hold egalitarian world views and get their news from newspapers,” the Star Tribune said.

“Around 22 percent of those surveyed said they supported fracking. They tended to be older, better educated and politically conservative. Their primary news source was television, the survey found.”

The survey included responses from 1,061 people and has a margin of error of 3 percent.