The central USA has experienced an increase in the frequency and magnitude of humaninduced
earthquakes. The earthquakes are caused by the deep-well injection of water produced
from oil and gas development. However, the novelty of these earthquakes and the
politicized nature of oil and gas have resulted in competing explanations for their causes,
leading to public uncertainty. To determine public beliefs about the causes of the earthquakes
and the factors that influence these beliefs, we administered and analyzed a household
survey. We found that the more individuals experienced the adverse effects of the
earthquakes, the more they agreed that they were caused by the injection of wastewater
from oil and gas production. Further, individuals with more positive perceptions of oil
and gas industry activity more strongly believed that the earthquakes are caused by nature.
These findings show that beliefs around technological, energy-related hazards are shaped
by hazard exposure and views about the human activity causing the hazard. Understanding
what the public believes to be the cause of the earthquakes is important, as it can impact
policy and personal interventions taken to mitigate risk.