Natural gas production from shale enjoys widespread backing across the country, with more than three times as many supporting production as opposing, according to a new survey.

There is overwhelming support for reducing Britain's reliance on gas imports from overseas, the study found.

The findings, which give a boost to controversial proposals for commercial fracking, come from a survey by Populus of 4,000 adults, commissioned by UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG), the trade association representing the UK's onshore oil and gas industry.

The study found that 57% of people support the production of natural gas from shale in the UK, compared with 16% who oppose and 27% who are undecided.

More than two thirds (67%) agree that Britain needs to produce its own energy so it is not reliant on gas from other countries, compared with just 1% who disagree.

Nearly three fifths (59%) would be willing to see natural gas from shale production go ahead as long as it forms part of a mix that includes renewable energy sources, with only 12% disagreeing.

Ken Cronin, chief executive of UKOOG, said: "This survey shows that most people across the country think that shale gas should be developed. More than four out of five of us heat our homes with gas, and Britain's shale resource gives us the opportunity to become less dependent on foreign energy supplies, create tens of thousands of jobs and support our manufacturing industries.

"Shale gas and renewables are complementary, and our survey confirms that the public would like to see a balanced mix that includes both sources of energy. Whilst these results are positive, our industry needs to continue to do all it can to listen to and engage with the views of local communities."

:: Populus interviewed 4,086 adults in Great Britain online between June 13 and 19.

A Greenpeace spokesman said: " Surely it's no coincidence that the only survey out there showing this level of public support for fracking has been commissioned by the industry lobby. All independent polls show less than half of Britain backs shale drilling.

"This is just more smoke and mirrors to hide the obvious fact that fracking remains a highly controversial industry, far less popular than clean and safe alternatives like wind and solar."

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas dismissed the poll result as "an absolute outlier" and said she believed some of the questions it asked were "quite dubious in the way they were phrased".

She also criticised the heavy redaction of a Government report into the potential impact of fracking on affected areas - including on house prices.

The official analysis - titled Shale Gas: Rural Economy Impacts - had several key sections obscured when it was published.

"This report would be comical if it wasn't so serious because there is just so much of it that has been blacked out," Ms Lucas told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"If we are going to have a proper debate about energy futures in this country, we can't do that if the Government isn't being straight with the British public.

"The only conclusion you can draw from looking at this report is that the Government has something to hide and I think we need to know what it is."