There remains a dearth of evidence regarding the impacts of the increase in U.S. oil and gas production and wastewater disposal wells on the social landscape of surrounding communities. The ways in which, and extent to which, communities respond to the potential risks of wastewater disposal and potential induced seismicity depend on factors such as their knowledge, risk perceptions, and capacity for collective action. This research examined the perceived credibility of various, sometimes conflicting sources of information regarding the earthquakes, as well as public beliefs regarding the cause of the earthquakes and potential mitigation responses to the earthquakes.


Research Questions​

  • What factors affect participant response in a household survey of communities experiencing induced seismicity? 

  • What sources do individuals view as credible regarding information related to the earthquakes and oil and gas development? What factors, predict this perceived credibility? 

  • What do individuals in regions affected by induced seismicity believe to be causing the earthquakes? What factors, including earthquke exposure, perceptions of oil and gas development, and demographics, serve as predictors of this belief? 

  • Do individual in regions affected by induced seismicity believe the earthquakes can be stopped? If so what is the best way to do so? Lastly, what do individuals believe regariding ongoing efforts at mitigating the earthquakes? What factors predict these beliefs? 

Research Methods

This study examined the risks of injection-induced seismicity in the context of four communities across two states: Colorado and Oklahoma. Exploratory interviews were conducted with actors in each community. The interviews focused on group affiliations, the information used to inform risk perceptions and network mobilization, the source of the information, dissemination methods, and connections with other individuals and groups regarding oil and gas development and induced seismicity. The data gathered from these interviews has served primarily to inform the rest of the research development.

In the spring of 2018 a household survey was mailed to a randomly selected subset of residences in the case-study communities. This survey asks respondents questions about their views on oil and gas development; the potential causes of the earthquakes; who they view as credible sources of informaiton; and their ties to the oil and gas industry. Analysis of these data were used to answer the research questions of this project.


A summary of the results of the household survey conducted across communities in Colorado and Oklahoma in the spring of 2018 can be found in the "Publications" section of this website under "Reports," or by clicking here.

In response to the first research question, the results of our analysis shows that many factors (e.g. having the option to respond via the internet or web v no choice) hypothesized to be significant predictors of response rate or response speed were, in fact, not significant. However, whether the target population was urban or rual was a significant predictor of several outcomes, with urban respondents being more likely to complete and return the survey, completed it faster, and had fewer missing items or skipped questions as compared to rural communities. This is currently under review for publication.

Regarding what sources individuals view as credible, we found that university researchers and scientists were viewed as the most credible source, and elected officials were viewed as the least credible source. Rural respondents viewed sources as less credible than their urban counterparts, and those who have experienced more negative impacts of induced seismicity view sources as less credible than do individuals who have not experienced such adverse impacts.This work has been published in Sustainability and can be found in the "Publications" section of this website.

We found that Oklahomans and those who are more adversely affected by the earthquakes more strongly believe that the earthquakes are caused by oil and gas development, while those who have more positive perceptions of the oil and gas industry more stronggly believe the earthquakes are natural and not tied to industry activity. This work is currently under review for journal publication.

We found that those who view the oil and gas industry favorably, as well as those who perceive the oil and gas industry sources as highly credible are less likely to believe the earthquakes can be stopped; believe that less drastic measures are the best way of stopping the earthquakes and oppose stronger regulations of the activities causing the earthquakes. Those who have negative views of the industry and view environmentalist sources of information as highly credible are more likely to believe the earthquakes can be stopped; believe that stopping all hydraulic fracturing is the best way of stopping the earthquakes; and favor stronger regulations of the activities causing the earthquakes. This work is currently under review for journal publication.


  • Tracy, A. and A. Javernick-Will (2020). “How Incentive Timing, Response Mode Choice, and Urbanicity Affect Survey Response”. Engineering Project Organizations Journal. Vol 9. DOI: 10.25219/epoj.2020.00105.
  • Tracy, A. and Javernick-Will, A. (2020). “Credible Sources of Information Regarding Induced Seismicity”.  Sustainability. 12(6), 2308; 10.3390/su12062308
  • Tracy, A., Javernick-Will, A., and C. Torres-Machi. “Techna or Natural? Factors influencing perceptions of actions to be taken in response to seismicity”. Submitted to: International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction.