Superstorm Sandy and Global Climate Change Beliefs

Full text of today’s release follows. Click here for a PDF of the text with all tables and questions.


NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Following two years of storms like Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, and the 2011 Halloween blizzard, nearly two-thirds of New Jerseyans see global climate change as the likely culprit, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Only 29 percent see the storms as isolated weather events. A majority says they are more likely to believe in global climate change as a result of the storms that hit New Jersey in 2011 and 2012.

Nearly half believe it is at least somewhat likely that global climate change will cause another natural disaster like Sandy in their own community within the next year, while 47 percent disagree. But three-quarters of Garden Staters say it is at least somewhat likely climate change will cause a natural disaster somewhere in the U.S. during that time, while only 20 percent consider it unlikely.

Residents also overwhelmingly expect that consumer costs will rise due to disasters from climate change, and they believe the federal government will have to spend more for recovery from storms made worse by global climate change.

Across all of the questions asked, those not affected by Sandy were not significantly different in their responses from those who were.

“The disaster trifecta New Jersey faced in 2011 and 2012 has residents feeling gloomy about weather prospects for the future, even if Sandy did not hit them directly,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. “Even those who don’t expect their own community to suffer again this year think climate change all but ensures another calamity somewhere in the country.”

Results are from a poll of 923 New Jersey adults conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from April 3-7. The margin of error is +/-3.2 percentage points.

Sharp partisan divide on climate change

The effects of recent weather disasters has large numbers of Democrats and independents convinced that climate change is to blame, but Republicans generally maintain that the storms are isolated events. More than 80 percent of Democrats see climate change causing recent disasters, as do 60 percent of independents. But only about 33 percent of Republicans agree, while 61 percent think the storms were not climate change driven.

While about a third of Republicans say the storms have made them more likely to believe in global climate change, a clear majority of GOP backers say their opinion remains unchanged, despite the storms. But two-thirds of Democrats say they are more likely to believe in climate change now, as do half of independents.

“Global climate change remains a contentious political issue, regardless of the apparent effects or the scientific data,” noted Redlawsk. “New Jersey’s Republicans, like Republicans nationally, do not view changing weather patterns as a result of global climate change. The gulf between them and Democrats remains as wide as ever.”

Women are nine points more likely than men to believe storms like Irene and Sandy result from climate change (69 percent to 60 percent). South Jersey and shore county residents (55 percent and 57 percent, respectively) are less likely to see these storms as due to climate change. About seven-in-10 urban and suburban residents think differently.

Nearly three-quarters of those who blame recent storms on climate change also say those storms made them more likely to believe climate change is real. The same percentage of residents who see Sandy and Irene as isolated weather events say there has been no change in their views on climate change. Women are 11 points more likely than men to say the storms made them believe in climate change. Regionally, 63 percent of suburban residents say they are more likely to believe climate change post-Sandy, while only 39 percent of those in the exurban counties of northwestern New Jersey feel the same.

Most expect more climate change-driven storms

While about half of respondents think it is at least somewhat likely that a global climate change-caused disaster will hit their community in the next year, only 19 percent think it is very likely. But a majority thinks it is very likely that a natural disaster caused by climate change will strike somewhere in the United States. An additional 25 percent says such a disaster is somewhat likely, meaning more than 75 percent sees some chance of another Sandy-like disaster in the U.S. in the near future.

“Residents do not think Sandy is the end of it, as far as New Jersey or the country is concerned,” said Redlawsk. “Given the belief of most residents that climate change is responsible for Sandy, Garden Staters are realistic about the chances of it happening again, here or elsewhere.”

As with belief that climate change drove Sandy, partisanship again divides opinions. Twenty-eight percent of Democrats say another Sandy-like storm driven by climate change is likely to strike their own community in the next year; only 9 percent of Republicans feel likewise. About twice as many Democrats as Republicans think such a storm is very likely in the U.S. in the near term.

“It is not surprising that Republicans, who don’t think recent storms were driven by climate change, are unlikely to think it will cause future storms,” said Redlawsk. “But clearly, most other New Jerseyans do see a role for global climate change.”

Those personally affected by Sandy are six points more likely than those who were not to say a climate change-driven natural disaster is very likely in their own community in the next year, but this difference vanishes when asked about the country as a whole. More millennials (those under 30) say a disaster in the next year is very likely either near them (39 percent) or somewhere in the U.S. (55 percent) than are other residents.

More disasters, more cost

Residents overwhelmingly believe that both the federal government and individuals will have to pay more due to consequences of climate change. Eighty-two percent say it is at least somewhat likely that the federal government will be required to increase disaster funding, and 8 in 10 also think it is at least somewhat likely they will personally have to pay more for consumer goods and services due to the impact of climate change on businesses in the next year.

Those more likely to believe in climate change post-Sandy are also more likely to believe that government funding will need to be increased – 72 percent say very likely. Likewise, three-quarters of those who believe recent storms have been caused by climate change feel the same, compared to only 30 percent of those who say the storms are isolated events.

Democrats are more than twice as likely as Republicans (74 percent to 34 percent) to say it is very likely federal disaster funding will need to increase; 53 percent of independents feel the same.  More women (63 percent), those 18 to 29 (67 percent) and urban residents (67 percent) say it is very likely that federal costs will increase due to natural disasters caused by climate change.

Democrats are also much more likely than Republicans to expect financial costs of climate change to affect them personally. Sixty-two percent of Democrats say increased costs for goods and services due to climate change are very likely compared to 51 percent of independents and 43 percent of Republicans.


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One response to “Superstorm Sandy and Global Climate Change Beliefs

  1. Pingback: #4 Sandy – Rutgers-Eagleton Poll’s 2013 Top 5 Countdown | eagletonpollblog

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