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Monmouth University Polling Institute

Sandy Recovery Slow but Steady in Jersey

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

AshBritt contract not on public’s radar

New Jerseyans are generally positive about the pace of recovery after the wallop delivered by Superstorm Sandy.  The Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll  finds that most residents expect shore recovery to take up to two years but they still plan to head back to the beach this summer.  The poll also found that Garden State residents are at least somewhat confident that Sandy relief money will be spent wisely and few have an opinion of the AshBritt contract to coordinate the clean-up effort.

On a personal level, 77% of New Jersey families report they either have fully recovered or were not impacted by Superstorm Sandy.  This is nearly identical to the 74% who said the same in December, just over one month after the storm hit.  In the hardest hit areas of the state, 57% of residents say they are fully recovered, compared to 53% in December.

Just over 4-in-10 Garden State residents (43%) say they will do more to prepare for the next storm, which is up slightly from 38% in December.  In the hardest hit areas of the state, 52% now say they will do more to prepare for the next storm, which is 9 percentage points higher than in December (43%).

Overall, 7-in-10 New Jerseyans say they are very (26%) or somewhat (45%) satisfied with the state's recovery effort so far.  Only 22% are dissatisfied.  Among those in the state's hardest hit areas, 3-in-4 are content with the effort - 27% very satisfied and 48% somewhat satisfied.

Garden State residents are generally, although not overwhelmingly, confident that federal relief funds will be spent wisely on the recovery effort, with 13% saying they are very confident and 51% somewhat confident.  One-third are not too (17%) or not at all confident (15%) that these funds will be spent wisely.

"New Jersey residents are cautiously optimistic about the long road to recovery.  It appears they are waiting for more progress to be made before they are willing to express a high level of confidence in the effort," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

There has been some debate over the state's award of a contract to a Florida-based company, AshBritt, to coordinate much of New Jersey's clean-up.  Most Garden State residents have either not heard of the contract (68%) or have no opinion of it (18%).  Only a small group has an opinion and they are divided - 7% approve of the contract and 7% disapprove.  Also, 14% say it is at least somewhat likely that Gov. Chris Christie awarded this contract as the result of political favors compared to 12% who say this is not likely to have been the case.  Furthermore, just 27% of New Jerseyans say they would hold it against Gov. Christie that some of the members of Congress he campaigned for last year actually voted against the federal aid package.  Another 63% say they would not hold it against him.

Turning to shore recovery, 21% of Garden State residents think it is very likely that the Jersey Shore will be fully open for business this summer and 44% say this is somewhat likely.  Another 28% say it is not likely to happen this year.  However, most believe that the Jersey Shore will be fully operational either this year or within the next two years (65%).  Another 27% think it could take up to five years, 2% say it could take longer, and 2% think shore businesses will never fully recover.

Regardless of whether they think beach towns will be fully operational, Garden State residents say they are heading down the shore this summer, perhaps in record numbers.  Currently, 71% say they plan to visit New Jersey's beaches this summer, including 28% who plan to stay a week or more and 43% who will make shorter trips.  The 71% who will head down the shore this year is higher than the 65% who said they planned to head down the shore before the 2011 summer season and is similar to the 69% who planned a shore visit in the post-recession boomlet of 2010.  In prior years, between 59% and 60% of state residents said they planned to visit the Jersey Shore.

One debate surrounding recovery funding received by shore communities is whether beach access should be made free.  Currently, 35% of New Jersey residents say beach-goers should have to pay a fee to use the state's beaches and 60% say they should not.  This 35% support finding is nearly identical to the 36% level from 2010 and is higher than in past polls - 30% in 2008 and 26% in 2006.

"In every way, New Jerseyans want to see their shore get back to business as usual.  Beach fees are still unpopular, but no more or less than they were before Sandy," said Murray.

While much attention is being paid to devastation down the shore, few Garden State residents (10%) say that the cities and towns in northern New Jersey that were damaged by flooding from Sandy have fully recovered.  Another 56% say these urban areas have partially recovered and 20% say they have either barely recovered or not recovered at all.  Interestingly, residents in the northern part of the state - 78% Northeast and 82% Northwest, along with 69% along the Route 1 corridor - are most likely to say that affected North Jersey cities and towns have at least partially recovered.  Residents of the southern part of the state - including 55% in the Philadelphia suburbs and just 46% in the Shore counties - are less likely to think these northern areas have recovered.

The Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll  was conducted by telephone with 803 New Jersey adults from February 6 to 10, 2013.  This sample has a margin of error of ±  3.5 percent.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute and originally published by the Asbury Park Press and its sister publications (Courier-Post, Courier News, Daily Journal, Daily Record, and Home News Tribune).

Methodological Note:  

For this survey, the classification of "Hardest Hit Area" includes zip codes covering coastal communities - on both beach and bay - in the four Jersey Shore counties as well as flooded urban communities in the northern part of the state (e.g. Moonachie, Little Ferry, Hoboken, parts of Jersey City, Perth Amboy, etc.).  These areas represent 14% of the survey sample.

The "Region" classification for this Sandy-specific survey is defined by county:  Northeast (Bergen, Passaic, Essex), Route 1 (Hudson, Union, Middlesex, Mercer), Northwest (Somerset, Hunterdon, Morris, Warren, Sussex), Shore Counties (Monmouth, Ocean, Atlantic, Cape May), and Southwest (Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland).

The questions referred to in this release are as follows:

1.      Would you say your family has fully recovered from the storm, partially recovered, barely recovered, or not recovered at all?

2.      Thinking about your own preparations for Sandy.  The next time a big storm is predicted to hit New Jersey, will you do more to prepare, less to prepare, or about the same as you did to prepare for this storm?

3.      How likely is it that the Jersey Shore will be fully open for business this summer – very, somewhat, not too, or not at all likely?

4.      How long do you think it will take before the shore is fully open for business – within the next two years, about 3 to 5 years, more than 5 years, or do you feel it will never be fully open again?

5.      Would you say the cities and towns in northern New Jersey damaged by flooding from Sandy have now fully recovered, partially recovered, barely recovered, or not recovered at all?

6.      Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the state’s Sandy recovery effort so far?  [Is that very or somewhat (satisfied/dissatisfied)?]

7.      How confident are you that federal relief funding for New Jersey’s Sandy recovery effort will be spent wisely – very, somewhat, not too, or not at all confident?

8.      How much have you read or heard about a contract New Jersey has with a Florida company to coordinate much of the state’s clean-up – a lot, a little, or nothing at all?

9.      Based on what you have heard, do you approve or disapprove of this contract, or don’t you have an opinion

10.    Do you think it is very likely, somewhat likely, or not likely that Gov. Christie awarded this contract as the result of political favors?

11.    Last year, Governor Christie campaigned for some members of Congress who voted against the federal relief package for victims of Sandy.  Will you hold that against him or not?

12.    Will you visit the Jersey shore this summer? [If “Yes”: Will you stay for a week or longer?]

13.    Do you think beachgoers should or should not have to pay a fee to use New Jersey beaches?

The Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from February 6 to 10, 2013 with a statewide random sample of 803 adult residents, including 603 contacted on a landline telephone and 200 on a cell phone.  Live interviewing services were provided by Braun Research, Inc. and the telephone sample was obtained from Survey Sampling International.  Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey questionnaire design, data weighting and analysis.  For results based on the total 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.  Sampling error increases as the sample size decreases, so statements based on various population subgroups, such as separate figures reported by gender or party identification, are subject to more error than are statements based on the total sample.  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.

It is the Monmouth University Polling Institute’s policy to conduct surveys of all adult New Jersey residents, including voters and non-voters, on issues that affect the state.  Specific voter surveys are conducted when appropriate during election cycles.

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

Download this Poll Report with all tables

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