Bans or moratoria on hydraulic fracturing are in place or being considered worldwide. In large part, these actions stem from relatively data-free media presentations of risks associated with hydraulic fractions. Our objective is to analyze the influence of media and public perceptions in shaping policy related to hydraulic fracturing and to use this evaluation to provide insight on balancing science with public perception in judging political risks and guiding public policy. By balancing science with public perception, good policy and a social license to operate result. We conducted a literature review of the role of media in influencing public opinion on political issues and then focused the conclusions found in the literature onto the topic of hydraulic fracturing. We evaluated the influence of media, including movies, television, and traditional new outlets, as well as internet sources such as blogs, news aggregators, nongovernmental organization (NGO) campaigns, and social media, and then compared these sources to the influence of published scientific literature in shaping public perception and political and regulatory oversight of hydraulic fracturing. The results of our analysis show that the large disconnect between scientific data and public opinion makes it difficult for elected officials and regulatory agencies to develop well-founded policies that regulate hydraulic fracturing in a manner that is accepted by both the public and industry. Based on these results, our study illustrates that public officials need to balance public opinion with data-rich scientific studies and analysis, and then weigh political risk when crafting legislation and public policy.