West Long Branch, NJ – A majority of New Jerseyans continue to favor the development of offshore wind energy, but the current level of support is far below the widespread backing it has received in polls over the prior 15 years. The Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll finds that 4 in 10 residents think wind farms could hurt the state’s summer tourism economy and just under half see a connection between wind energy development and the recent spate of whales washing up on New Jersey beaches. Few see wind energy leading to major job growth in the state.
Just over half of New Jersey residents (54%) favor placing electricity-generating wind farms off the state’s coast while 40% oppose this action. In 2019, wind energy support stood at a much higher 76%, with just 15% opposed. Prior to that, support for offshore wind farms was even higher, ranging between 80% and 84% in polls taken from 2008 to 2011.
The decline in wind energy support has been largely partisan. Republican backing has gone from 69% to 28% in the past four years and support among independents has dropped from 77% to 52%. Democratic support, however, has remained stable at 79% in 2019 and 76% now. Favorable views of wind energy among residents in New Jersey’s four coastal counties has dropped by a larger amount (from 75% to 43%) than it has inland (from 75% to 56%), although this is partly due to the fact the coastal region has a larger share of Republicans compared to the rest of the state.
“There was a time when wind energy was not really a political issue. It consistently received widespread bipartisan support for more than a decade. That is no longer the case,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.
One factor that influences public opinion on offshore wind energy is its potential economic impact on the Jersey Shore. Four in 10 Garden State residents (40%) say placing wind farms off the coast will hurt summer tourism. There is no real difference of opinion between coastal county residents (43%) and other New Jerseyans (38%) on this, but there is a partisan difference. Specifically, 56% of Republicans say wind energy will hurt shore tourism, compared with 41% of independents and just 24% of Democrats who agree. Few New Jerseyans (9%) believe that offshore wind will help tourism, with 44% saying it will have no impact.
Furthermore, few New Jerseyans see wind energy development as a boon for the overall state economy. Just 22% say that this industry would create a lot of jobs for the state. Most (55%) say that a few new jobs would be created, while 15% expect the industry would not create any new jobs.
Another factor that has played into the debate around wind energy has been the number of whales washing up on New Jersey beaches recently. Just under half of the public feels that the development of offshore wind energy is either definitely (20%) or probably (25%) contributing to these strandings, while a similar number say wind energy is definitely not (10%) or probably not (35%) a factor. Republicans (63%) are much more likely than Democrats (26%) to believe that wind energy development is definitely or probably playing a role in these whale beachings.
Opinion on the beached whale phenomenon has a high correlation with support for wind energy. Among New Jerseyans who see a connection between the two, just 29% favor offshore wind energy development. Among those who feel these things are not related, 76% support wind energy.
“Changing the status quo is very hard, and the state has set some very ambitious goals to move to more renewable energy sources and reduce fossil fuel emissions. It is not surprising that more local concerns are getting raised as plans for offshore wind advance. Clearly the state and wind industry have to do a much better job in reaching out to communities to demonstrate the economic and environmental benefits of these projects, as well as to counter misinformation about threats to tourism and threats to whales,” said Tony MacDonald, director of the Urban Coast Institute at Monmouth University.
Currently, 37% of residents say significantly increasing offshore wind energy should be a major priority for New Jersey over the next ten years. This is down from 48% who said the same in 2019. There has been a decline in seeing wind as a top priority among all partisan groups, including Democrats (55%, down from 66%), independents (35%, down from 43%), and Republicans (17%, down from 32%). Among all New Jerseyans, 30% say wind energy development should be a minor priority (similar to 34% in 2019), while 30% say it should not be a priority at all for the state (up from 11%).
Thinking about the potential impact on them personally, just 25% of Garden State residents would favor developing offshore wind if it caused their electricity rates to increase for the next few years. In 2019, a larger number (41%) backed wind energy development even with the possibility of short-term rate increases.
The Monmouth University Poll also finds that statewide opinion of other energy options has become more favorable at the same time wind energy support has dropped. Specifically, 41% of New Jerseyans favor building a nuclear reactor in the state. Support for this energy option had been on the decline – from 41% in 2008 to 26% in 2019 – before jumping back up in the current poll. Also, 40% of state residents favor drilling for oil or gas off the coast of New Jersey. Prior poll results on this question have varied widely over the past 15 years – registering majority support during times when gas prices spiked (56% in 2008 and 52% in 2011) and going as low as 3 in 10 in favor at other times (31% in 2010 and 30% in 2019).
New Jersey Republicans give majority support to both offshore drilling (63%) and nuclear energy (53%). In 2019, just under half of this group supported fossil fuel exploration (48%) and even fewer supported nuclear energy (31%). Fewer than 3 in 10 Democrats support either oil drilling (25%) or nuclear energy construction (29%), but even these low numbers are between 6 and 7 points higher than they were in 2019. Interestingly, among New Jerseyans who specifically believe offshore wind farms would hurt summer tourism down the shore, just 23% support wind energy development but more than twice as many (49%) favor drilling for fossil fuels off the state’s coast.
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from August 10 to 14, 2023 with 814 New Jersey adults. The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 5.4 percentage points for the full sample. 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 & 13-16 held for future release.]
[Q2-12 previously released.]
[QUESTIONS 17-19 WERE ROTATED]
17.Do you favor or oppose placing electricity-generating wind farms off the coast of New Jersey?
|(VOL) Don’t know||6%||10%||6%||7%||6%|
*Prior question wording was “Would you favor or oppose…”
18.Do you favor or oppose building a nuclear power plant in New Jersey?
|(VOL) Don’t know||7%||8%||4%||5%||8%|
* Prior question wording was “Would you favor or oppose building another nuclear power plant…”
19.Do you favor or oppose drilling for oil or gas off the coast of New Jersey?
|(VOL) Don’t know||6%||9%||3%||7%||7%|
*Prior question wording was “Would you favor or oppose…”
20.Should significantly increasing the amount of wind energy produced offshore be a major priority, minor priority, or not a priority for New Jersey over the next ten years?
|Not a priority||30%||11%|
|(VOL) Don’t know||3%||7%|
21.Would you favor or oppose developing more offshore wind farms if it caused your electricity rates to increase for the next few years?
|(VOL) Depends on the increase||9%||7%|
|(VOL) Don’t know||3%||8%|
22.Would placing wind farms off the New Jersey coast help, hurt, or have no impact on summer tourism down the shore?
|(VOL) Don’t know||8%|
23.Would building wind farms off the New Jersey coast create a lot of new jobs, a few new jobs, or no new jobs in the state?
|A lot of new jobs||22%|
|A few new jobs||55%|
|No new jobs||15%|
|(VOL) Don’t know||9%|
24.There have been a number of whales washing ashore on New Jersey beaches recently. Is the development of offshore wind energy contributing to these strandings – would you say definitely, probably, probably not, or definitely not?
|(VOL) Don’t know||11%|
[Q25-34 held for future release.]
[Q35-47 previously released.]
The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from August 10 to 14, 2023 with a probability-based random sample of 814 New Jersey adults age 18 and older. Interviews were conducted in English, and included 245 live landline telephone interviews, 360 live cell phone interviews, and 209 online surveys via a cell phone text invitation. 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 2021 one-year survey). Interviewing services were provided by Braun Research, with sample obtained from Dynata. 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 5.4 percentage points adjusted for sample design effects (1.56). 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
COASTAL counties are Atlantic, Cape May, Ocean, and Monmouth.
Party (self-reported): 22% Republican, 43% Independent, 35% Democrat
Sex: 49% Male, 51% Female
Age: 27% 18-34, 34% 35-54, 39% 55+
Race: 55% White, 13% Black, 19% Hispanic, 13% Asian/Other
College: 58% No degree, 42% 4 year degree
Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and crosstabs by key demographic groups.