Today we issue another report in our ongoing attempts to assess attitudes toward recovery from Superstorm Sandy, which hit NJ and the east coast just over a year ago. We asked just a few questions this time, focused on how people think the recovery is going. Two of these questions we last asked in April (Are we back to normal; how long will it take) and two of the others we asked in June. (Rating recovery for the state overall and for the Shore on a 1-10 scale.)
New Jersey voters appear to be less positive about recovery than they were a few months ago. While more now think we’re already back to normal, the large majority does not and they think it will be a while. And recovery ratings have definitely slipped for both the Shore and the state overall. We added a few other targets for the question this time, including whether businesses, homeowners with damage, and tourism are recovered. Assessments of the Shore recovery are the worst of the group, and are noticeably lower than they were in June.
The text of the release follows. Click here for a PDF of the release with full text, questions, and tables.
NEW JERSEYANS BELIEVE SHORE RECOVERY STILL A LONG WAY OFF
Two in three residents say state is not yet ‘back to normal,’ Rutgers-Eagleton Poll finds
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – New Jerseyans are still feeling the effects of Sandy one year after the hurricane pounded the Garden State, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll of registered voters, with two-thirds saying the state is not yet “back to normal.” The results represent some improvement since April 2013, when 78 percent said life here was not yet normal. Most still think it will be years before normalcy returns.
Just 12 percent of respondents who think things are not normal are optimistic pre-Sandy conditions will return within another year. Sixty-one percent expect a return to normalcy might take up to five years, and 13 percent think it will take up to a decade. Three percent see recovery taking more than a decade, and 6 percent say pre-Sandy normalcy will never return. Another six percent are uncertain.
“While slightly more Garden Staters think we are back, many are no more optimistic about the length of recovery than they were back in April,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “At that time, 78 percent saw a return to normalcy taking as long as five years. That number has declined only five points. Clearly, New Jerseyans continue to see a long haul ahead.”
Despite the modest improvement in outlook, most respondents give low to mediocre ratings to progress of the recovery. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 meaning “not at all recovered” and 10 meaning “fully recovered,” voters score the state’s overall recovery at 6.1. Asked about specifics, ratings are lower. Recovery of the Shore region is rated at 4.7, while voters score recovery for homeowners with sustained damage, at 4.8. Assessments of tourism (5.7) and business (5.9) are somewhat more favorable.
In a June poll, voters gave Shore recovery a mark of 6.2. The state’s overall recovery mark also has dropped, from 6.9 in the last poll.
“Since summer, we have seen the Seaside Park boardwalk fire and an increase in media attention to those who have not yet recovered from the storm,” said Redlawsk. “Moreover, there were reports of disappointing summer tourism. It is not surprising people feel less positive about the recovery.”
Results are from a statewide poll of 804 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points, contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Oct. 28 – Nov 2.
Sandy’s impact and partisanship influence assessment
Even though ratings are down from April, Voters’ assessment of the recovery of New Jersey as a whole is significantly better than perceptions of its individual aspects. Voters most often give the state’s recovery a 7, chosen by 24 percent, with another quarter rating the overall recovery from 8 to 10. Voters who supported Gov. Chris Christie are much more positive than voters in state Sen. Barbara Buono’s camp, with an average rating of 6.4, compared to 5.7. Those who approve of Christie’s job on Sandy give an average rating that is a point and a half higher than those who disapprove of his efforts.
Assessments of the state’s overall recovery are significantly higher than those specifically focused on the Jersey Shore. Among all voters, the most frequent rating for the region’s recovery is 5, given by just under one-quarter of voters. Another quarter rate Shore recovery at 6 or 7, but almost as many rate it at 3 or 4. The majority of New Jerseyans, 64 percent, rate Shore recovery at 5 or lower.
Those personally affected by Sandy rate progress at the Shore lower, at 4.5, compared to those who were not personally impacted, who rate it a 4.9. Those who live in Shore counties, however, give recovery slightly higher rating on average (4.8) compared to the 4.6 awarded by urban voters, the 4.4 by those living in suburban counties, and exurban resident’s average rating of 4.5.
Recovery ratings for the Shore are also fueled by partisan allegiances and feelings towards Christie. Republicans give a higher average rating (5.0) than either independents (4.6) or Democrats (4.7). Similar patterns occur based on vote preference: Christie voters see Shore recovery at 4.9, while Buono voters give it a 4.3 rating.
“While damage occurred throughout much of the state, most of the focus on recovery has been aimed at the Jersey Shore, since that region is so iconic,” noted Redlawsk. “This has convinced many that the region’s recovery lags the state’s. Even the governor’s supporters see a big gap between the overall state recovery and the Shore’s.”
Assessments of recovery for homeowners who sustained damage from Sandy are similar to those for the Shore. Voters statewide are most likely to give progress on this matter a 5, with the majority – 65 percent – scoring homeowner recovery at 5 or lower.
Shore residents are most negative about how those who suffered damage are doing, giving a 4.6 rating, lower than they give the region’s recovery generally. But statewide, voters personally affected by Sandy score homeowner recovery slightly higher than those who were not directly affected, 4.8 to 4.6. As with Shore recovery, Republicans on average give a 5.2 rating to homeowner recovery, higher than independents (4.7) and Democrats (4.5).
Business and tourism recovery seen slightly better
Voters are slightly more positive about progress with New Jersey tourism and businesses in general, than about the Shore, rating recovery in these areas at 5.7 and 5.9, respectively. Voters are most likely to rate tourism, 5, and all businesses, 7. Almost three-quarters of voters give tourism a 5 or higher, as do 80 percent for businesses overall.
While tourism recovery is rated slightly higher by voters living down the Shore (5.8) than in most other regions, voters personally affected by Sandy give lower ratings than those who were not (5.6 versus 5.8). Republicans and those favorable toward Christie rate tourism higher than do Democrats and independents, and those who approve of Christie’s handling of Sandy specifically rate tourism more than a point higher than those who do not.
As for businesses in general, those living down the Shore give the lowest rating (5.6) compared to other regions, as do those in the lowest income bracket (5.5). Voters who were personally affected by the storm show little difference from those who were not (5.9 versus 6.0.) As with other areas, those in Christie’s corner once again give higher ratings than those who are not.
Impact of Sandy lingers
Sixty-seven percent say post-Sandy New Jersey is not back to normal, while 28 percent say it is, and 6 percent are unsure. Not surprisingly, 76 percent of those in the hardest hit Shore areas say things are not back to normal, higher than in other regions of the state.
While more than a quarter of voters say New Jersey has returned to normalcy, the rest are not overly optimistic, expecting rebuilding to still take another one to five years. Those in the Shore region are least hopeful. Among shore residents awaiting normalcy, only 9 percent see recovery happening within the next year and another 58 percent say one to five years. But 18 percent say it will take five to 10 years, 5 percent say 10 or more years, and 7 percent say the state will never return to pre-Sandy normalcy.
Partisanship colors optimism, with Republicans more than twice as likely as independents and Democrats to say the state will return to normal in a year; they are also much less likely to say it will take much longer or will never fully return to normal. Those favorable toward Christie and those who approve of his handling of Sandy show similar patterns.
About half the state’s residents say they were personally affected by Sandy and its aftermath.