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New Jersey Wants to Halt Development of Off-Shore Wind Farms

Fairleigh Dickinson University, Madison, NJ – New Jersey residents narrowly oppose the continued development of off-shore wind farms, with concerns about the recent deaths of whales and dolphins reducing support for the green energy project. According to the latest results from the FDU Poll, 35 percent of New Jersey residents say that the state should continue the development of the wind farms off the coast, with 39 percent saying that development should be halted.

“If we’re going to meet the Murphy administration’s green energy goals, New Jersey needs to build a lot of wind farms, and fast,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of Government and Politics at FDU, and the director of the poll. “But the administration just hasn’t convinced the public that it’s a good idea.”

While there is no evidence that the off-shore wind farms are linked with a recent spate of dolphin and whale deaths on the Jersey shore, opponents of the projects have argued that the development should be halted until a link can be ruled out. Such arguments seem to be effective. In the survey, respondents were randomly assigned to be asked about the off-shore wind farms in a question that included a mention of the whale and dolphin deaths, or a version without it. Even though the question noted that there was no known link between the deaths and the wind farms, it significantly reduced support for the development of off-shore wind.

When the question about wind farms doesn’t mention the deaths of whales and dolphins, 42 percent of New Jersey residents say that the state should continue development, with 33 percent saying that it should be stopped, a 9 point margin in favor of development. But in the version that does mention the deaths, only 28 percent say that development should continue, with 46 percent saying that it should be halted, a 16 point margin against. This difference is mostly driven by Democrats. Among Democrats, mentioning the whales and dolphins reduces support for continued development of off-shore wind by 24 points (from 65 percent to 41 percent); among Republicans, it reduces support by 12 points (from 27 percent to 15 percent).

“The argument that the wind farms are hurting cute, smart animals just craters support,” said Cassino. “People concerned about the environment want to have green energy, but put that up against dolphins, and the dolphins are going to win every time.”

Interestingly, people who live in coastal areas are no different in their views of the wind farms than New Jerseyans who live elsewhere in the state. In the coastal counties of Atlantic, Cape May, Monmouth, and Ocean, 44 percent say that development should be halted, with 33 percent saying that it should continue. This is no different than the 41 percent who want to halt development from the northwest corner of the state, or the 46 percent in South Jersey. Support for the wind farms is highest in the urban core counties of Essex, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, and Union Counties.

Across the two question wordings, Democrats are much more likely than Republicans or independents to support the continued development of the wind farms. A bare majority (53 percent) of Democrats say that development should be continued, with just 21 percent saying that it should be stopped. Among Republicans, this is almost entirely reversed, with 21 percent supporting the projects, and 62 percent saying that they should be stopped. Independents are almost exactly in the middle, with 47 percent saying that development should be halted.

“This isn’t a regional issue in New Jersey,” said Cassino. “Whether you’re actually going to see the off-shore wind farms doesn’t matter nearly as much as whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat.”

More educated voters are more likely to support the development of off-shore wind, while there is no clear relationship between age and support for the projects. Despite the unfounded concerns about wildlife deaths, the New Jersey government has pressed ahead with the developments, inviting bids for more turbines as recently as the last few months. 

Methodology

The survey was conducted between April 28 and May 6, 2023, using a certified list of adult New Jersey residents carried out by Braun Research of Princeton, New Jersey. Lists of residents were obtained from Aristotle International of Washington, DC. Respondents were randomly chosen from the list, and contacted via either live caller telephone interviews, or text-to-web surveys sent to cellular phones, resulting in an overall sample of 817 respondents. 239 of the surveys were carried out via live caller telephone interviews on landlines, and the remainder (578) were done on a web platform via weblinks sent via SMS to cell phones, or via live caller cell phone interviews. Surveys were conducted only in English.

The data were weighted to be representative of the population of adult NJ residents, as of the 2020 US Census. The weights used, like all weights, balance the demographic characteristics of the sample to match known population parameters. The weighted results used here are balanced to match parameters for sex, age, education and race/ethnicity.

SPSSINC RAKE, an SPSS extension module that simultaneously balances the distributions of all variables using the GENLOG procedure, was used to produce final weights. Weights were trimmed to prevent individual interviews from having too much influence on the final results. The use of these weights in statistical analysis helps to ensure that the demographic characteristics of the sample approximate the demographic characteristics of the target population. The size of these weights is used to construct the measure of design effects, which indicate the extent to which the reported results are being driven by the weights applied to the data, rather than found in the data itself. Simply put, these design effects tell us how many additional respondents would have been needed to get the weighted number of respondents across weighted categories: larger design effects indicate greater levels of under-representation in the data. In this case, calculated design effects are approximately 1.4.

All surveys are subject to sampling error, which is the expected probable difference between interviewing everyone in a population versus a scientific sampling drawn from that population. Sampling error should be adjusted to recognize the effect of weighting the data to better match the population. In this poll, the simple sampling error for 817 residents is +/-3.5 percentage points, at a 95 percent confidence interval. Including the design effects, the margin of error would be +/-4.7 percentage points, though the figure not including them is much more commonly reported.

This error calculation does not take into account other sources of variation inherent in public opinion studies, such as non-response, question wording, differences in translated forms, or context effects. While such errors are known to exist, they are often unquantifiable within a particular survey, and all efforts, such as randomization and extensive pre-testing of items, have been used to minimize them.

Weighted Telephone Sample Characteristics

817 New Jersey Residents

Figures are weighted to overall voter characteristics from the 2020 US Census. Figures do not include individuals who declined to answer demographic items.

Man

49%                 N = 399

Woman

50%                 N = 402

Some Other Way

1%                  N = 9

 

18-30

19%                N = 158

31-44

30%                 N = 249

45-64

32%                 N = 252

65+

19%                 N = 150

 

Democrat (with leaners)

44%                 N = 295

Independent

22%                 N = 147

Republican (with leaners)

34%                 N = 230

 

White

55%                N = 449

Black

13%                N = 104

Hispanic/Latino/a

21%                N = 170

Asian

8%                  N = 61

Other/Multi-racial

2%                  N = 15

 

No college degree

60%                N = 483

College degree or more

40%                N = 321

 

Question Wording and Order

NJ1. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Phil Murphy is handling his job as governor?

  1. Approve
  2. Disapprove
  3. Not Sure/Don’t Know [Vol]
  4. Refused [Vol]

 

[Respondents are randomly assigned to get NJ2A or NJ2B]

NJ2A. In recent months, dead whales and dolphins have washed up on New Jersey beaches. No one is sure why. The deaths have led some people to argue that New Jersey should stop the development of offshore wind farms until we know what’s happening. What do you think? Should we stop the development of offshore wind farms, or not?

  1. Should stop the development of off-shore wind farms
  2. Development of off-shore wind farms should continue
  3. Not Sure/Don’t Know [Vol]
  4. Refused [Vol]

NJ2B. The development of off-shore wind farms off the Jersey Shore has long been controversial. For various reasons, some people want to stop building the wind farms, other people think that they should go forward. What do you think? Should we stop the development of off-shore wind farms, or not?

  1. Should stop the development of off-shore wind farms
  2. Development of off-shore wind farms should continue
  3. Not Sure/Don’t Know [Vol]
  1. Refused [Vol]

NJ3-NJ5 held for later release

D1. In politics today, do you consider yourself a Democrat, Republican, Independent, or something else?

  1. Democrat
  2. Republican
  3. Independent  [ASK D1A]
  4. Something Else/Other
  5. DK/Ref

D1A. [Ask only if D1 is 3] Which way do you lean?

  1. Democrat
  2. Republican
  3. Independent
  4. Something Else/Other
  5. DK/Ref

NJ6. [Half get this question before NJ7, half get it after NJ7] Former President Trump is under investigation over several matters and has been indicted for alleged crimes in New York. Do you believe that these investigations are legitimate, or not?

  1. Believe that they’re legitimate
  2. Do not believe that they’re legitimate
  3. Don’t Know [Vol]
  4. Refused [Vol]

[Randomly shuffle order of NJ7A, NJ7B; both only for Republicans and leaners]

NJ7A. [Ask only Republicans/lean Republicans] Regardless of who else is running for the Republican nomination, how likely are you to support former President Trump in the Republican Presidential Primary next year?

  1. Will definitely support Trump
  2. Likely to support Trump
  3. Unlikely to support Trump
  4. Will definitely not support Trump
  5. Not Sure/Don’t Know [Vol]
  1. Refused [Vol]

 

NJ7B. [Ask only Republicans/lean Republicans] Former Governor Christie has been exploring a run for President next year. Regardless of who else is running for the Republican nomination, would you consider voting for Christie in the Republican Presidential primary?

  1. Would consider voting for Christie
  2. Would not consider voting for Christie
  3. Not Sure/Don’t Know [Vol]
  1. Refused [Vol]

 

NJ6. [Half get this question before NJ7, half get it after NJ7] Former President Trump is under investigation over several matters and has been indicted for alleged crimes in New York. Do you believe that these investigations are legitimate, or not?

  1. Believe that they’re legitimate
  2. Do not believe that they’re legitimate
  3. Don’t Know [Vol]
  1. Refused [Vol]

Further questions held for later release

 

Release Tables

 

Should we stop the development of off-shore wind farms? [Combines two versions: see exact wording above]
OverallDemIndpRepub
Stop Development39%21%47%62%
Continue Development35%53%31%21%
Not Sure/ Don’t Know24%23%20%17%
Refused2%2%2%0%

 

Should we stop the development of off-shore wind farms? [Combines two versions: see exact wording above]
OverallWhalesNo Whales
Stop Development39%46%33%
Continue Development35%28%42%
Not Sure/ Don’t Know24%25%22%
Refused2%1%3%

 

Should we stop the development of off-shore wind farms? [Combines two versions: see exact wording above]
 DemsRep 
WhalesNo WhalesWhalesNo Whales
Stop Development30%12%67%57%
Continue Development41%65%15%27%
Not Sure/ Don’t Know27%20%18%16%
Refused2%3%0%0%

 

Should we stop the development of off-shore wind farms? [Combines two versions: see exact wording above]
NorthwestNortheastUrban CoreSouthCoast
Stop Development43%41%33%46%44%
Continue Development41%31%39%28%33%
Not Sure/ Don’t Know16%26%25%25%21%
Refused0%2%3%1%2%

 

Region Classifications

Northwest: Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset, Sussex, and Warren Counties
Northeast: Bergen and Passaic Counties
Urban Core: Essex, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, and Union Counties
South: Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem Counties
Coast: Atlantic, Cape May, Monmouth, and Ocean Counties

Should we stop the development of off-shore wind farms? [Combines two versions: see exact wording above]
Under 3031 to 4445 to 6465+
Stop Development36%35%46%39%
Continue Development39%27%35%45%
Not Sure/ Don’t Know22%35%18%15%
Refused3%3%1%1%

 

Should we stop the development of off-shore wind farms? [Combines two versions: see exact wording above]
OverallNo CollegeCollege Degree
Stop Development39%44%33%
Continue Development35%30%43%
Not Sure/ Don’t Know24%24%23%
Refused2%2%1%

 

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