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PUBLIC OPINION

New Jerseyans Are Concerned But Lack Knowledge About Climate Change

RUTGERS-EAGLETON POLL – Two-thirds of New Jerseyans are concerned about the impact that climate change will have on them, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll conducted in collaboration with the New Jersey Climate Change Alliance at Rutgers University.

Thirty-seven percent say they are “very concerned” about the effects of climate change on their life or family members and the people around them. Another 30 percent are “somewhat concerned,” and the remaining third is “not very” (15 percent) or “not concerned at all” (18 percent).

Moreover, New Jerseyans have varying levels of knowledge about different aspects of climate change. Almost four in ten say they know “a lot” about its causes (37 percent) and its impact on the environment (38 percent); a third (32 percent) say the same about climate change’s effect on the future, and one in five (22 percent) say the same about how to prepare. About three in ten say they know only a “little” or “nothing at all” about the first three components; four in ten have little or no knowledge about how to prepare.

Residents are most likely to say they “frequently” get information about climate change from the mass media (53 percent), followed by social media (29 percent) and other people (18 percent). Just one in ten cite “frequently” getting news from their local community organizations or state government.

On the policy side, more favor the state government combating climate change by offering incentives (45 percent) to reduce greenhouse emissions rather than imposing limits (29 percent). Yet when asked who should pay to make New Jersey more resilient to the impact of climate change, 62 percent want the fuel producers and heavy users that cause the most greenhouse gas emissions to pay a “major share” of the cost; another 22 percent say they should pay a “minor share.” Forty-three percent believe state government should pay a “major share” from the taxes it collects; another 35 percent say they should pay a “minor share.”

Residents are largely in favor of helping low-income households meet energy efficiency standards. Eight in ten support (50 percent “strongly,” 29 percent “somewhat”) requiring affordable and low-income rental homes to meet energy efficiency building standards. The same number supports (50 percent “strongly,” 30 percent “somewhat”) requiring utility companies to provide financial incentives to help low-income customers cover the cost of energy-saving improvements to their homes.

“These results underscore the challenges that New Jersey and other states face when addressing climate change,” said Jeanne Herb of the Rutgers Bloustein School of Policy and Planning and the New Jersey Climate Change Alliance at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “Most New Jerseyans show some concern about climate change but are uncertain of how to address it both personally and through public policy.”

Residents are hesitant to reach into their own pockets to pay for remedies. Only 6 percent feel residents should fund efforts to address climate change through a charge on their utility bills; 45 percent each say residents should pay a minor share or no share at all.

A majority is also against paying more in taxes to make infrastructure in the state more weather resistant (54 percent against, 40 percent in favor). There is general support, however, for helping those whose homes were damaged by extreme weather to relocate or rebuild – especially for those living in lower- and middle-income areas. But New Jerseyans are split when it comes to whether the government should have the power to prohibit homeowners from rebuilding in flood-prone areas in the first place (50 percent should, 43 percent should not).

“Views on climate change are starkly divided by partisanship and other key demographic factors,” said Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP) at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “Some groups are much more concerned than others, and this concern drives knowledge, access to different types of information, and support for related initiatives. Yet no matter the level of concern, New Jerseyans across the board are against personally paying for most solutions – symptomatic of their larger dissatisfaction with taxes and cost of living in the Garden State.”

New Jerseyans are amenable, however, to paying an additional 50 cents on their monthly electric bill if it means helping low-income households make their homes more energy efficient: 28 percent would “strongly support” and another 27 percent “somewhat support” doing so.

A majority of New Jerseyans support more local activity regarding climate change. By a margin of 57 percent to 6 percent, residents feel their mayor and local government should be doing more rather than less to reduce the effects of climate change. A quarter say they are doing enough already.

When it comes to helping the environment through future vehicle purchases, about one in five residents say they would seriously consider buying an electric car in the near future. Among those who would not, the main barrier is charging capabilities. Fifty-six percent cite the fear of running out of power on the road as a major reason; another 17 percent say it is a minor reason for their hesitation to purchase. Similar numbers point to the lack of a place to charge their car at home (44 percent say it’s a major reason, 17 percent say minor).

“These poll results provide important input for efforts to advance sound, science-informed climate change discourse and policy here in New Jersey,” said Marjorie Kaplan, associate director of the Rutgers Climate Institute.

Results are from a statewide poll of 1,008 New Jersey adults contacted by live callers on landlines and cell phones from March 29 through April 9, 2019. The sample has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Meet the Climate Corps

Angel Alguera, Rutgers Climate CorpsAngel Alguera
I am a first-year Atmospheric Science master’s degree student in the Department of Environmental Sciences, and my work focuses on meteorology and applications of climate change resiliency. My professional interests include severe weather forecasting and community preparedness regarding weather-related disasters. I work with Dr. James Shope at the NJ Climate Change Resource Center to produce applied research and reports relevant to New Jersey stakeholders. I currently assist with climate change data analysis, large dataset management, and report writing.

Benjamin GoldbergBenjamin Goldberg
I am a second-year Master of City and Regional Planning student concentrating in climate adaptation and resiliency planning, with experience in sustainable food systems. I joined the Climate Corps last summer to help develop a GIS-based food waste recovery tool, and currently support community resilience through flood vulnerability analysis. I hold a B.A. from Middlebury College and a Certificate in Ecological Horticulture from UC Santa Cruz.

Surya Jacob, Rutgers Climate CorpsSurya Jacob
I am a graduate student in the Master of City and Regional Planning program at the Bloustein School concentrating in community development, focused on housing, land and finance, as well as pursuing the Real Estate Development/Redevelopment Certification. Prior to Bloustein, I worked as an architect and interior designer in India and Canada and am pivoting towards a career in urban planning to engage in extensive projects at the macro level. My interests include affordable and mixed income housing, urban redevelopment, and housing finance, and I am deeply passionate about climate resilience in community planning. Being part of Climate Corps is a foundational step towards helping to solve equity issues in vulnerable communities along the coastal region.

Vineesh Das Kodakkandathil, RutgersVineesh Das Kodakkandathil
I am an urban planner with five years of professional experience in community-led ecotourism development and land use and environment management planning in ecologically sensitive areas. I have worked on and conducted extensive environmental sensitivity analyses, flood and landslide vulnerability assessments, and human impact assessments with the help of GIS tools. I’m currently pursuing my master’s in City and Regional Planning at Bloustein School with a concentration in Transport Planning and GIS.

Douglas LeungDouglas Leung
I am working with the Climate Change Resource Center to identify vulnerable communities and places affected by climate-induced flooding in coastal New Jersey municipalities. I am a Master of City and Regional Planning candidate at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. As a planner, I want to develop strategies and solve problems affecting our cities and communities that enable more equitable outcomes in housing and transportation. I am also a recent Army veteran, having served as a company commander of recruiting in the northern suburbs of Chicago and as a reconnaissance platoon leader in the 10th Mountain Division. For fun, I enjoy weightlifting, running, reading fiction, and board games.

Nihar MhatreNihar Mhatre
I am a master’s candidate in city and regional planning at Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, focusing on urban design and land use planning. Before being accepted at Rutgers, I worked as an architect at JD Studio and had my own architectural practice, Vastu Insights. My research interests revolve around designing and developing climate change adaptation and resilience strategies to promote equity in urban landscapes. Having the opportunity to work on real-world projects through Climate Corps will be an essential step in the development of my understanding of addressing climate change issues in vulnerable regions.

Josephine O'GradyJosephine O’Grady
I am a first-year student in the Master of Public Policy program. Through the Coastal Climate Risk and Resilience (C2R2) certification, I am focusing a significant portion of my graduate coursework on topics including coastal geomorphology, environmental justice, and hazard mitigation planning. Before beginning my studies at the Bloustein School, I received my bachelor’s degree in public health from Kean University, where I first became interested in how coastal dynamics shape lived experiences. I previously served as an intern at the New Jersey State Policy Lab and currently work for the Megalopolitan Coastal Transformation Hub (MACH) team.

Jessica Parineet Jessica Parineet
I am a first-year Master of Public Policy student at the Bloustein School with a strong interest in climate change policy and related topics. In my previous work, I gained experience in a number of dimensions of climate change issues through carbon capture storage research, urban heat island research, and community level engagement as I am currently on the Student Advisory Board for the Rutgers Office of Climate Action. I am excited to expand on my interests in environmental justice and local level resilience planning through my involvement in the Climate Corps.

Dillon Patel Dillan Patel
I am a second-year Master of City and Regional Planning student concentrating in Environmental Planning and International Development. I have previously worked as an economist performing cost-benefit analysis and conducting monitoring and evaluation for renewable energy in developing countries. I have also spent a summer in western Massachusetts mapping stormwater infrastructure and working with planners to identify suitable places for green stormwater infrastructure.

Moira Sweeder, Rutgers Climate CorpsMoira Sweeder
I am a graduate student enrolled in the Master of City and Regional Planning program at the Bloustein School. My concentration is environmental planning with a focus on coastal resilience. Before pursuing my master’s degree at Rutgers, I studied sustainability at Stockton University. During this time, I interned for the PSEG Institute of Sustainability Studies, the Jacques Cousteau National Estuary Research Reserve, and NJ Audubon. I am thrilled to now be a part of the Climate Corps, researching coastal resilience as a part of the Megalopolitan Coastal Transformation Hub (MACH) team.