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Recent poll finds more than 70 percent of NJ residents believe climate change poses threat

Of more than 1,000 adults surveyed by the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP), approximately 80 percent see climate change as a significant issue affecting the planet. – Photo by Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash

The Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP)'s recent survey found that more than 70 percent of New Jersey residents believe climate change exists and poses a threat, according to a press release.

Jessica Roman, a research associate at ECPIP, said that the survey polled more than 1,000 random adult residents of the state over the phone and online.

Of these, approximately 80 percent of residents see climate change as an issue affecting the planet, according to the release. Approximately 70 percent view it as a critical part of their vote on Election Day, a finding that Roman says politicians should take into account when developing policy.

“Theoretically, if the majority of residents are concerned about climate change and think it is a serious issue, both of which are true, then policymakers would want to address constituent concerns and take action to make New Jersey more resilient against climate change and try to mitigate some of the driving forces behind climate change,” she said.

Roman said that differing attitudes toward the existence and risks of climate change are correlated with political affiliation, gender identity, race, age and educational background. These attributes — as well as household income and whether participants live in suburban, urban or rural areas — were taken into consideration when conducting the study, according to the press release.

Young adults, women, Black people, Democrats and those who have graduate schooling were more likely to believe in climate change and consider it a hazard, she said. 

She said that conversely, men, white people, Hispanic people, senior citizens, Independents and members of the Republican party were less likely to do so.

Opinions also differed based on where in the state the respondent lived, Roman said. Respondents were further divided into five geographic categories: urban areas, suburban areas, exurban areas, by the shore and toward Philadelphia.

Interestingly, respondents who live closer to the shore and those classified as exurban residents are less likely to view climate change as a significant hazard, she said.

The majority of New Jersey residents assign a significant amount of responsibility to respond to climate change to large businesses and the federal government, according to the results of the poll.

They also assign some responsibility to other industrialized countries and car manufacturers while assigning limited responsibility to individuals, their municipalities and less industrialized nations.

In terms of state involvement, the study found that the majority of New Jersey residents support more backing for, investment in and regulations on infrastructure, natural resources and natural disaster preparation and recovery.

“(Residents) support state policies that will protect and prevent them from impacts that result from a changing climate like disclosing flood vulnerability in real estate transactions, making stronger building codes, regulating development in flood-prone areas,” said Marjorie Kaplan, associate director of the Rutgers Climate Institute and co-director of the New Jersey Climate Change Resource Center.

The majority of New Jersey residents also believe that the state should be required to create definitive objectives to address emissions when investing in infrastructure and work toward becoming carbon neutral by the middle of the century, according to the study.

The study found that residents are also split on how to fund responses to the impacts of climate change. The majority of respondents point to the federal government and fossil fuel energy corporations to bear the brunt of funding these solutions, while many others point to their state and local governments.

Roman said that residents are reluctant to take individual responsibility for responses to the climate crisis due to the associated financial costs, especially because New Jersey’s taxes are already high and the rate of inflation is high.

“Couple (taxes) with the state of the economy and inflation right now, residents just do not want to personally foot the bill,” she said. “Residents know climate change is a serious problem, and they do want the state to take action, but they do not want the money coming out of their own pockets.”

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