GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP – Support in New Jersey for building wind turbines off the coast has plummeted over the past four years, especially in shore towns, according to a Stockton University Poll released today.
More state residents support the wind farms than oppose them, with 50% in favor of New Jersey plans to build wind turbines at sea to generate electricity and 33% opposed. Sixteen percent were unsure. The results reflect a drop of 30 percentage points from the findings of a September 2019 Stockton Poll that asked an identical question. In 2019, 80% of adult New Jersey residents supported offshore wind farms.
Four years ago, 77% of residents living in areas that border the ocean or a bay supported offshore wind turbines. Only 33% of coastal area respondents favor such construction in the poll released today by the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4.0 percentage points.
The main reasons for opposition to offshore turbines are potential harm to sea life and obstructed ocean views.
In July, the U.S. Department of the Interior approved the construction and operation of 98 wind turbines and up to three offshore substations in the Ocean Wind 1 project off the New Jersey coast.
“When the concept of wind farms moved from abstract policy considerations to preparing for actual construction, many residents said, ‘Not in my backyard, or at least not off my beach,’” said John Froonjian, director of the Hughes Center. “That’s especially true along the coast, where wind farms have been the focus of protests and legislative election campaigns.”
In the new poll of nearly 600 New Jersey adults, 72% still expressed concern about climate change, with 51% saying it is very important for the state to combat it and 21% saying it is somewhat important. Only 1 in 4 said it was not very important (9%) or not important at all (17%) for the state to make those efforts.
A majority (52%) said renewable energy sources such as wind will improve the climate, with 9% saying it would worsen conditions and 28% saying it would have no effect.
Pluralities — not a majority but the biggest group of respondents — also saw benefits in other areas of concern. This included improvements to local job opportunities (45%), lower home energy costs (39%) and improved reliability of electric power (35%). However, 48% opposed giving tax breaks to companies building the wind turbines, with 39% in support and 12% unsure.
Asked to rate the impact of wind farms, 71% said turbines would affect ocean views a great deal (34%) or a little (37%), with 16% saying they would have no effect. Also, 68% said wind turbines would affect marine life a great deal (44%) or a little (24%). Respondents also thought shore tourism would be affected at least somewhat: a great deal by 27% and a little by 28%, while 37% saw no impact on tourism.
“On every question, residents of shore communities were more negative about wind energy than people living elsewhere in New Jersey,” Research Associate Alyssa Maurice said.
|Very important that N.J. take action to combat climate change||51%||43%||52%|
|Support wind turbines off the N.J. coast||50%||40%||53%|
|Relying more on renewable energy sources would improve:|
|Local job opportunities||45%||41%||46%|
|The reliability of electricity||35%||28%||37%|
|Support for tax breaks to wind energy companies constructing wind farms||39%||25%||43%|
|Think wind turbines will impact the following a great deal:|
|Tourism to Jersey shore destinations||27%||30%||26%|
|Source: Stockton University Poll, William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy|
Coastal municipalities were defined as municipalities where any part of it touches the ocean or the bay. Residents self-reported whether they live in a coastal municipality.
Maurice said an even stronger divide was found along partisan lines, with Democrats strongly supporting wind energy and seeing potential benefits and Republicans roundly opposing turbines as negative forces.
Poll respondents were evenly split when asked whether authority to approve wind farms should rest with state government or municipalities where offshore construction would take place, with 41% saying the state, 42% saying the municipalities and 15% unsure.
To provide additional context on the issue of wind energy, the Hughes Center is releasing an audio interview conducted by Research Associate Maurice with Dr. Patrick Hossay, a longtime Stockton Environmental Studies professor and an expert in alternative energy sources.
In the 31-minute podcast, Hossay explains how wind turbines work, their potential impact on marine life and the economy and their safety record internationally. Listen to the audio interview here.
Find full poll results here.