A Closer Look by the ECPIP Staff … New Jerseyans and Global Climate Change

Recent Storms Seen as Result of Climate Change, Not Isolated Events

By Caitie Sullivan and Mihir Dixit

Caitlin Sullivan is the head data visualization and graphic representation intern at the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP) and a senior at Rutgers University. Mihir Dixit is a data visualization intern at ECPIP and a freshman at Rutgers University.

These data come from a three-state study done in February by the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll in conjunction with two other statewide academic polling centers – Siena Research Institute in New York and Roanoke’s Institute for Policy and Opinion Research in Virginia. We fielded a large set of the same questions to respondents in our respective states and have previously released the state-by-state results. This blog post takes a closer look at the New Jersey-specific data and the differences that emerge within New Jersey itself for some of the questions we asked in this study.

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After events like Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy the past few years, New Jersey residents tend to believe that the violent weather patterns impacting the East Coast are more than just coincidental occurrences. While 31 percent of New Jerseyans believe that recent major storms on the East Coast are simply isolated weather events, 62 percent believe that global climate change is instead the culprit.

These views on climate change are divided across partisan lines, of course. As expected, more than three-quarters of Democrats display the belief that these weather patterns are a result of climate change; only 16 percent believe the storms are isolated events. Republicans, on the other hand, feel the opposite – though not to the same extent as Democrats. While 35 percent of Republicans believe that climate change is responsible for major storms on the East Coast, 55 percent consider the storms to be coincidental. Independents are somewhere in between. Climate change is the more popular explanation for recent inclement weather, with 61 percent of independents agreeing with this sentiment, versus 31 percent of independents who say these storms are isolated happenings.

Majorities of both men and women also believe that the recent extreme weather throughout the East Coast has been due to climate change. Men are less inclined to believe that the storms are the result of climate change than women, however – 57 percent versus 67 percent, respectively. Over a third of men and just a quarter of women believe that these major storms are just coincidental.

There also seems to be some significant difference in opinion among age groups. Seventy-two percent of millennials (between 18 and 29 years old) believe that these recent storms are due to climate change, while only 25 percent in that age bracket believe they are isolated events. But this gap between those who believe recent major weather events are the result of climate change and those who believe they are isolated gets smaller as age increases. Almost two-thirds of New Jerseyans ages 30 to 49 feel that the storms are the product of climate change, but three in ten say they are solitary events. More than half of those over 50 believe that the recent storms have been caused by climate change, but about a third still believe these events are unrelated to one another.

New Jersey residents living in urban, suburban, and south Jersey areas are more likely to believe that these storms are the result of climate change than those living in exurban or shore regions. While surprising at first since the shore has been devastated by these recent storms, much of these differences boil down to partisan ties within the regions. Seven in ten urbanites, over six in ten suburbanites and those who live near Philadelphia and in South Jersey believe climate change is to blame for the recent major storms on the East Coast, compared to just over half of exurbanites and shore dwellers who feel the same. Those in the exurban and shore regions are a little more split in their opinions than others; over a third says that the recent storms are just isolated occurrences.

Regardless of opinions on climate change, one thing New Jerseyans can certainly agree on is the need for warmer weather and for spring to arrive soon …

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