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Majority Supports Plastic Bag Ban; But Few Aware of Ban on Paper

Majority Supports Plastic Bag Ban; But Few Aware of Ban on Paper

New Jersey

Lower income residents expect harder time to adapt

West Long Branch, NJ – Most New Jerseyans are aware that a ban on single-use plastic bags will go into effect next month, but the word “ban” may mean different things to different people. There is majority support for a “plastic bag ban,” but many backers would still prefer to have access to plastic bags for a small fee. At the same time, the Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll finds that many New Jerseyans are likely to be caught off guard if they expect to be able to get a paper bag. Few are aware that a ban on paper at large supermarkets is included in the new rules. Overall, most state residents say it will be easy for them to adjust to bringing their own bags when they shop, but those at the lower end of the income scale are more likely than others to say they will have a very hard time adjusting.           

Seven in ten New Jerseyans are aware that stores will be prohibited from providing single-use plastic carryout bags starting in May – 33% have heard a lot and 37% have heard a little about this.  Overall, 61% of state residents support a plastic bag ban, which is similar to public support in 2019 (65%).

The poll finds the definition of a “ban” may not be consistent among every Garden State resident, however. When presented with a number of different options, 30% support an outright ban on all single-use plastic bags, but 28% prefer to allow customers to pay a small fee if they want a plastic bag. Another 41% say stores should continue to be allowed to give away single-use plastic bags for free. These results are virtually unchanged from a Monmouth poll taken three years ago.

“Most New Jerseyans support efforts to reduce plastic use, the question is how happy they will be with the change once it goes into effect,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

About 2 in 3 residents overall say it will be either very easy (38%) or somewhat easy (28%) for them to adapt to bringing their own bags when they shop. A significant segment of the public (38%) say they already bring their own bags when shopping for groceries. But half (50%) generally use the store’s plastic bags and 10% use paper bags provided by the store. Among current plastic and paper bag users, just over half say adapting to bringing their own bags will be either very (22%) or somewhat (32%) easy.

In general, New Jerseyans at the lower end of the income scale may have the hardest time adjusting to the ban on single-use bags. One-fourth (24%) of those who make less than $50,000 a year say this change will be very difficult for them, compared with 15% of those earning $50,000 to $100,000 and 10% of those making over $100,000. While 57% of those earning less than $50,000 say they support a ban on single-use plastic bags, fully 51% of this group would prefer that stores still be able to give them out for free and another 26% say they should be able to charge customers a small fee for them.

“The upcoming ban is likely to produce the most confusion and problems for those on very tight incomes, especially for those with limited transportation options,” said Murray.

The new law also includes a ban on giving out paper bags in large supermarkets. Only 28% of the public is aware of this provision and less than half (47%) supports it. Interestingly, there is very little difference between Democratic (52%) and Republican (49%) backing of this measure. This stands in contrast to statewide opinion on banning various single-use plastics which have huge partisan gaps. 

“A lot of people who think that they will simply bag their groceries in paper instead of plastic at the checkout next month are in for a surprise,” said Murray.

In other poll findings, nearly two-thirds of the public supports a ban on takeout containers and cups made of polystyrene foam (64%), which is part of the law going into effect next month. Just over half (52%) back a ban on plastic straws, which is identical to public support in 2019.  The poll also finds that only a little over half the public (51%) is aware that the law on plastic straws changed last fall, requiring customers to request a straw rather than be given one automatically. When asked how New Jersey food establishments are handling this, 47% of state residents report that most are complying with the new rule while 32% say most are still giving out plastic straws without being asked by the customer.

“The new plastic straw rule needs a bit more direct observation to assess compliance. Half the public hasn’t even heard of it and there may be selective memory among those who have about businesses complying with the new rule,” said Murray.

At least two-thirds of Democrats support the bans on single-use plastic bags (72%), foam containers (73%), and plastic straws (67%). Just under half of Republicans back the ban on plastic bags (44%) and foam containers (49%), and just 1 in 4 support a ban on plastic straws (26%).

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from March 31 to April 4, 2022 with 802 New Jersey adults.  The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

QUESTIONS AND RESULTS     

(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)

[Q1 held for future release.]

[Q2-20 previously released.]

21.When you go grocery shopping, do you generally bring your own bags, do you use single-use plastic bags provided by the store, or do you use paper bags provided by the store at checkout?  [If MIXED or DEPENDS: What do you use most of the time?]

April
2022
Bring own bags38%
Store’s plastic bags50%
Store’s paper bags10%
(VOL) Do not shop for groceries1%
(VOL) Don’t know1%
   (n)(802)

22.Do you support or oppose a ban on single-use plastic bags in New Jersey, such as those given out at supermarkets or other stores?

TREND:April
2022
Sept.
2019*
Support61%65%
Oppose37%29%
(VOL) Don’t know2%7%
   (n)(802)(713)

     * Question wording in 2019 was “Would you support or oppose a ban…”

[QUESTIONS 23-25 WERE ROTATED]

23.Do you support or oppose a ban on giving out paper shopping bags in large supermarkets?

 April
2022
Support47%
Oppose51%
(VOL) Don’t know2%
   (n)(802)

24.Do you support or oppose a ban on takeout food containers and cups that are made out of polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam?

 April
2022
Support64%
Oppose33%
(VOL) Don’t know3%
   (n)(802)

25.Do you support or oppose a ban on plastic straws in New Jersey?

TREND:April
2022
Sept.
2019*
Support52%52%
Oppose45%44%
(VOL) Don’t know3%4%
   (n)(802)(713)

        * Question wording in 2019 was “Would you support or oppose a ban…”

26.When it comes to single-use plastic bags given out at stores, which of the following would you prefer: a complete ban on single-use plastic bags, making customers pay a small fee if they want a plastic bag, or allowing stores to continue to give away plastic bags for free?

TREND:April
2022
Sept.
2019
A complete ban on single use plastic bags30%31%
Making customers pay a small fee if they want a plastic bag28%27%
Allowing stores to continue to give away plastic bags for free41%39%
(VOL) Don’t know1%3%
   (n)(802)(713)

27.Beginning in May, stores in New Jersey will be prohibited from providing customers with single-use plastic carryout bags, even for a fee. This applies to all stores, including supermarkets, clothing and home goods stores, pharmacies and food establishments. Have you heard about this upcoming ban on plastic bags, or not?  [If YES:  Have you heard a lot or a little?]

 April
2022
Yes, a lot33%
Yes, a little37%
Not heard30%
   (n)(802)

28.The new regulations also include a ban on large supermarkets giving out paper bags, even for a fee. Have you heard about this part of the upcoming ban, or not?

 April
2022
Yes, heard28%
No, not heard72%
   (n)(802)

29.How easy will it be for you to adapt to having to bring your own bags whenever you go shopping – very easy, somewhat easy, somewhat difficult, or very difficult?

 April
2022
Very easy38%
Somewhat easy28%
Somewhat difficult18%
Very difficult15%
(VOL) Don’t know0%
   (n)(802)

30.Since November, New Jersey food establishments are not supposed to give out plastic straws for drink orders unless a customer requests one. Were you aware of this new rule, or were you not aware of this before now?

 April
2022
Aware51%
Not aware49%
   (n)(802)

31.Based on your experience, are most New Jersey food establishments following this new rule or are most still giving out plastic straws without the customer having to ask for one?

 April
2022
Most are following new rule47%
Most are still giving out plastic straws32%
(VOL) Not been to a food establishment11%
(VOL) Don’t know11%
   (n)(802)

[Q32-37 held for future release.]

[Q38-45 previously released.]

METHODOLOGY

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from March 31 to April 4, 2022 with a probability-based random sample of 802 New Jersey adults age 18 and older, in English. This includes 280 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 522 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone. Telephone numbers were selected through random digit dialing and landline respondents were selected with a modified Troldahl-Carter youngest adult household screen. Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. The full sample is weighted for region, age, education, gender and race based on US Census information (ACS 2018 one-year survey). Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and Dynata (RDD sample).  For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points (unadjusted for sample design). Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below). In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

NJ Regions (by county)

North – Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Passaic, Sussex, Union, Warren

Central – Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Somerset

South – Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Ocean, Salem

DEMOGRAPHICS (weighted)
Self-Reported
24% Republican
40% Independent
36% Democrat
 
49% Male
51% Female
 
28% 18-34
34% 35-54
38% 55+
 
58% White
12% Black
19% Hispanic
11% Asian/Other
 
61% No degree
39% 4 year degree

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and crosstabs by key demographic groups.