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Monmouth University Polling Institute

Garden State Impact on the Environment

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Poll finds residents take steps to reduce “carbon footprint”

With Earth Day upon us, the latest Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll  finds that many New Jerseyans are taking steps to reduce their "carbon footprint" - from recycling newspapers and bottles to installing water saving devices.  This is coupled with a belief among Garden State resident that human actions are the primary cause of global warming.

More than 3-in-4 New Jerseyans say that their own individual actions can have an impact on the earth's environment, including 34% who say it is a major impact and 43% who say it is a minor impact.  Only 21% of state residents believe their own actions have no impact on the condition of the environment.

The poll also asked residents about different actions people can take to lower their use of energy and reduce pollution.  Fully 79% of New Jerseyans say they adjust their home's thermostat to use less heat and air conditioning.  A majority of 56% have spent money to either upgraded the insulation in their house or replace their lamps with low-energy fluorescent bulbs.  Half (50%) have installed low-flow showerheads or other water-saving devices.  And while only 2% of state residents report purchasing a hybrid gas/electric car, another 16% say they would seriously consider doing so.

Other findings indicate that the state's mandatory recycling law - which was enacted exactly 20 years ago this month - has had an impact on residents' behaviors, even when they are away from home.  About 7-in-10 New Jerseyans report that they always (49%) or often (21%) look for a recycling bin for their newspapers or plastic bottles when they are out, such as shopping or at work.  Another 11% do this occasionally and 18% never do this.

While most New Jerseyans have a recycling mentality, those who look for an appropriate receptacle when they are out and about are not guaranteed to find one.  Just under 6-in-10 recyclers say that they can always (31%) or often (28%) find a recycling bin when they need it.  Another 34% say they can occasionally find an appropriate bin and just 4% say there never is a recycling bin when they need one.

"New Jerseyans seem to have taken environmental issues to heart," remarked Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.  "Most connect their own actions to the larger environment.  One area of concern, though, is among younger adults who may talk the talk, but not necessarily walk the walk."

The poll found that adults under age 30 are just as likely as their older neighbors to believe their own behaviors have an impact on the environment, but they are somewhat less likely to report taking actions to mitigate that impact.  While many young adults rent and thus are not in total control of their home energy use, recycling is an equal-opportunity activity.  Only 28% of New Jerseyans age 18 to 29 report that they always look for a recycling bin to deposit their newspapers and plastic bottles when they are away from home.  This is about half the number of residents age 30-49 (56%) and 50 or older (51%) who say they always seek out an appropriate receptacle for their recyclables.

The poll also included questions on global warming and found that more than twice as many New Jerseyans believe that increases in the earth's temperature are due to the effects of pollution from human activities (58%) than believe they are from natural changes in the environment (26%).  Another 10% volunteer that both are equal causes of global warming.  These findings are similar to national poll results.

Garden State residents, though, are more likely than other Americans to believe that media reporting of global warming is generally accurate.  Overall, 41% of New Jerseyans say that news reports of global warming or the "greenhouse effect" are generally correct.  This compares to 29% of U.S. adults who said the same in a national Gallup Poll conducted last month.  Another 27% of state residents feel that the seriousness of global warming is generally underestimated while 23% say it is exaggerated.  Both these figures are about 8 to 10 percentage points lower than in the national poll.

The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll  was conducted by telephone with 804 New Jersey registered voters from April 12 to 16, 2007.  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 Gannett New Jersey newspaper group (Asbury Park Press, Courier-Post, Courier News, Daily Journal, Daily Record, Home News Tribune, and Ocean County Observer).

The questions referred to in this release are as follows:

1.     We are interested in activities people might do.  For each item I read, please tell me if you are already doing it, are seriously considering it, would think about it, or probably wouldn’t do it.  [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]

2.     When you are away from home, such as at work or shopping, do you look for receptacles to recycle newspapers, plastic bottles, and other recyclable products you use – Do you do this always, often, occasionally, or never?

3.     And how often are you able to find an appropriate recycling bin when you need one – always, often, occasionally, or never?

4.     Do you think your own individual actions can have an impact on the earth’s environment, or not?  [IF “YES” ASK:  Can they have a major impact or just a minor one?]

5.     Now I’d like to ask you about global warming or the “greenhouse effect.”  Thinking about what is said in the news, in your view is the seriousness of global warming generally exaggerated, generally correct, or is it generally underestimated?

6.     And from what you have read or heard, do you believe increases in the Earth’s temperature over the last century are due more to the effects of pollution from human activities or natural changes in the environment that are not due to human activities?


Results for this Monmouth University/Gannett NJ Poll are based on telephone interviews conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute on April 12 to 16, 2007 with a statewide random sample of 804 adult residents.  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 which 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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