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Post Sandy recovery: New Jersey supports most rebuilding proposals

seabright_optWhile most New Jerseyans have rebounded from the impact of Superstorm Sandy, about 1-in-4 are still picking up the pieces more than a month later, according to the latest Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll.   Most residents are satisfied with how state agencies, private companies and their fellow citizens responded to the disaster, although there are some differences based on which utility provides their power. 

Garden State residents also favor taxpayer support of most rebuilding efforts, but with significant constraints on how rebuilding occurs, especially when it comes to private shore homeowners.

Rebuilding plans

Nearly half of New Jerseyans (47%) say it is very important to repair damaged areas of the Jersey Shore in time for this summer’s tourist season.  Another 34% say it is somewhat important and 18% say it is not important.  Among shore county residents, more than 6-in-10 (62%) say this is very important.  However, Garden State residents do not feel that the job should be rushed if it would drive up the costs.  Only 25% support having shore towns do all they can to rebuild by this summer if doing so would increase the price tag.  Two-thirds of New Jerseyans (67%) feel that the shore should rebuild gradually if the cost of expediting the process is a factor.  Among residents of the four shore counties, 31% support rebuilding by the summer of 2013 regardless of cost, while 60% support a more gradual rebuilding strategy to keep costs down.

The vast majority of New Jerseyans support using state tax dollars to assist with storm recovery, except when it comes to subsidizing private homeowners down the shore.  More than two-thirds of state residents support state expenditures to: restore existing wetlands and bays to serve as storm buffers (80%), upgrade and stormproof  power utility substations and lines (79%), assist North Jersey urban residents who were flooded (78%), upgrade and stormproof rail systems (77%), rebuild boardwalks and beach amenities (76%), replenish beach sand (72%), assist North Jersey urban businesses that were flooded (71%), and rebuild shore businesses (68%).

“The Jersey Shore is considered to be one of the state’s primary assets, so it is no surprise that we find a general public willingness to support rebuilding efforts.  The question is whether support will shift once the costs become more apparent,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. He added, “It is interesting that there is less public support for subsidizing the rebuilding of private shore homes than there is for businesses and other beach amenities.  Perhaps most New Jerseyans feel that shore homeowners accepted the risks or that these are mainly vacation properties rather than primary dwellings.  We will definitely be exploring this in future polling.”

There is less support for using state tax dollars to rebuild private shore homes (40% support to 51% oppose) or to help high-risk area homeowners with little damage upgrade their properties (39% support to 56% oppose).  Residents are also less supportive of using the state government’s “Blue Acres” funds to buy private property in high risk shore areas.  Just 43% of Garden State residents support this proposal, while 37% who oppose it, with 20% saying it depends or having no opinion.

[Note: the actual or potential costs of any of these actions were not part of the poll questions.  As such, these results only indicate the public’s general inclination to provide state support for different aspects of the recovery effort.]

While New Jerseyans support state assistance for the recovery effort, it should not come without constraints, according to poll findings.  Nearly 9-in-10 residents support imposing stricter storm-resistant building codes in affected areas (87%).  More than 7-in-10 support the creation of a coastal commission to coordinate shore planning and rebuilding (72%).  Two-in-three also support giving towns the right to impose a short-term building moratorium in high risk areas (69%), permitting beachfront homeowners to rebuild only if they allow dunes or sea walls in front of their properties (68%), and allowing state regulators to decide which coastal areas can or cannot be rebuilt according to storm risk assessments (66%).

In assessing the poll, Murray stated, “Polling on elections and tracking the governor’s job performance are important parts of what we do as a public interest polling operation.  But the type of research in this survey is where we can provide a significant service to New Jersey residents and policymakers.  The results in this release represent only part of a larger set of questions we asked about how Sandy has affected the state.  We will be releasing the full set of results in the coming weeks, and will be tracking public support of ongoing policy developments and the long term impact of Sandy on those who were hit the hardest.”

The Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll was conducted by telephone with 816 New Jersey adults from November 29 to December 2, 2012.  This sample has a margin of error of + 3.4 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).

 
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