Monthly Archives: March 2016

NEW JERSEYANS CONTINUE TO OPPOSE GAS TAX HIKE; POSSIBLE ESTATE TAX TRADE-OFF DOES LITTLE TO BOOST SUPPORT

We have been polling for quite a while now – since the 1980s, in fact – on whether or not residents would support a gas tax hike.  The times have changed, but opposition on a hike remains the same.  New Jerseyans continue to say no to a gas tax increase, and any estate tax trade-off in the name of tax fairness is not persuading residents to say otherwise.

Click here for a PDF of the release text, questions, and tables.

NEW JERSEYANS CONTINUE TO OPPOSE GAS TAX HIKE; POSSIBLE ESTATE TAX TRADE-OFF DOES LITTLE TO BOOST SUPPORT

Over half favor dedicating all gas tax revenue to the Transportation Trust Fund 

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – The Transportation Trust Fund is running on fumes, but replenishing it through a gas tax increase remains a non-starter with New Jerseyans, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Fifty-six percent oppose a gas tax hike, virtually unchanged in the last 18 months; 42 percent support it.

This belies the fact that half of New Jerseyans feel the state is not spending enough money on road, highway and bridge maintenance.

A corresponding cut in estate and inheritance taxes, which is the aim of a bill advancing in the state Senate, does not make a gas tax hike much more appealing to residents. Thirty-seven percent (up six points since last October) would be more likely to support an increase if it were linked to a cut in estate taxes, but 49 percent (up five points) say this compromise would make them less supportive of a higher gas tax. Nine percent say it would make no difference, and 5 percent remain unsure.

“New Jerseyans have not budged in their opposition to a gas tax hike, no surprise given how unpopular the proposal has been since we first asked about it in the 1980s,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. “While there is less opposition than decades ago, residents nevertheless do not want to pay more at the pump.”

Despite opposition to a hike, New Jerseyans support dedicating all gas tax revenue to the Transportation Trust Fund – a question that will be on the ballot in November. Fifty-four percent are in favor of using the revenue for this purpose, versus 34 percent who are against it.

Results are from a statewide poll of 801 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Feb. 18 to Feb. 23, 2016. The sample has a margin of error of +/-3.9 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Few exceptions to majority opposition on hike

A majority of almost every demographic opposes a gas tax increase, with a few exceptions: Democrats (48 percent support to 50 percent oppose), senior citizens (49 percent support to 50 percent oppose), and those in households making between $100,000 and $150,000 (48 percent support to 50 percent oppose) are split down the middle on the issue.

In contrast, Republicans (at 63 percent), millennials (at 62 percent), shore residents (at 62 percent), and those in the lowest income bracket (at 61 percent) are most likely to oppose a hike.

Views differ little by driving habits: those who drive a car almost every day are slightly more likely to oppose an increase than those who drive less often.

But support for a hike is greatly influenced by one’s perception of how much is being spent on road repairs. Residents who believe the state is spending either too much (29 percent support, 71 percent oppose) or just the right amount (30 percent support, 68 percent oppose) are much less likely to support an increase in the gas tax than those who say the state is not spending enough (52 percent support, 46 percent oppose).

Every demographic is more likely to support than oppose giving all gas tax revenue to the Transportation Trust Fund, though to varying degrees. Those who support a hike (72 percent), drive almost daily (56 percent), and believe the state is not spending enough on roads (62 percent) are all especially likely to favor investing gas tax revenue into the Fund.

Minor support for estate tax compromise

The idea of cutting estate and inheritance taxes to balance a gas tax hike is not very popular with any demographic; only residents in the most affluent households are slightly more likely to say an estate tax trade-off would make them more rather than less (46 percent to 44 percent) inclined to support a hike.

Republicans (40 percent more likely), moderates (40 percent), millennials (41 percent), and shore residents (41 percent) are more prone than others to support a gas tax increase with the trade-off, but none reaches a majority.

A bare majority of residents who support a gas tax increase (53 percent) is swayed by a corresponding estate tax decrease, while six in 10 (62 percent) of those who oppose a hike feel just the opposite about the compromise.

“An estate tax compromise is not the kind of ‘tax fairness’ that persuades most New Jerseyans to support a gas tax hike,” said Koning. “Even among the estate tax’s usual opponents, like Republicans and affluent residents, support for a trade-off is lackluster.”

State transportation spending

New Jerseyans across the board feel the state does not spend enough money on roadway repairs, though there is some variation. Republicans are the least likely to feel this way, at 37 percent. Belief that spending is insufficient increases with age yet is lowest among those making under $50,000 compared to more affluent households.

Sixty-four percent of residents who support a gas tax increase feel New Jersey does not spend enough on road and bridge repairs. Even a plurality of gas tax hike opponents (42 percent) says the same.

Gas Tax Increase

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Water Quality in New Jersey

Since news first broke of water problems in Flint, Michigan, drinking water quality – and inequality of access to clean water – has been in the national spotlight. Reports have surfaced of problems here at home, too, with some cities in NJ allegedly having more lead-affected children than in Flint, as well as lead issues at Morristown Medical Center and most recently in Newark schools.

The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll has actually been asking about water quality for a few decades now, along with other questions dealing with the environment, pollution, and health. We wanted to take a look back at a few of our past questions on water to see where things stand now given recent events.

Click here for a PDF of the release text, questions, and tables. 

MAJORITY OF NEW JERSEYANS CONCERNED ABOUT QUALITY OF DRINKING WATER, WATER POLLUTION

But two-thirds are satisfied with their home tap water, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll finds

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Like much of the nation in the wake of the Flint, Mich. water crisis, New Jerseyans are concerned about the quality of their drinking water, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Amid reports of similar lead problems here at home, 52 percent of New Jersey residents are concerned about the water they drink: 33 percent are very concerned, and 19 percent are somewhat concerned. Twenty-two percent are not very concerned, and 24 percent are not concerned at all.

In general, most New Jerseyans say that water pollution is at least a somewhat serious problem. Twenty-five percent believe it is a very serious problem, and another 37 percent say it is somewhat serious; 28 percent feel it is not too serious. Yet the number of those who see it as very serious is currently at an all-time low after several decades above the 50-percent mark.

Despite strong general concern, New Jerseyans are mostly satisfied with the quality of the water coming into their homes. Nineteen percent rate their tap water as excellent, 45 percent rate it as good, 20 percent rate it only fair, and 14 percent rate it as poor. These ratings have changed little over the past two decades.

“Decades of polling show us that water quality and pollution have long been concerns in New Jersey, given the state’s history of polluted waterways,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. “Residents as a whole are more positive now than in the past, but a heightened sense of concern persists among those who still suffer from substandard water access and quality, a consequence of racial, socioeconomic, and geographic disparities.”

While residents are generally pleased with tap water quality, they prefer bottled or filtered water for drinking. Thirty-seven percent mostly use bottled water, 32 percent use filtered water, and 21 percent drink right from the tap. Ten percent use some combination of these methods. Tap water usage is down slightly since the Poll last asked about it more than a decade ago.

Results are from a statewide poll of 801 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Feb. 18 to 23, 2016. The sample has a margin of error of +/-3.9 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

Heightened concerns among those most impacted

Concern over drinking water quality is pervasive: about half or more of every demographic is at least somewhat concerned.

Concern is especially high among those who give their tap water quality negative ratings. Thirty-eight percent of residents who rate their tap water as only fair are very concerned, and another 30 percent are somewhat concerned. Among those who say their water is poor, 64 percent are very concerned; another 8 percent, somewhat. Those who rate their water as good or excellent, on the other hand, are much less worried. Half of residents who rate their water as good are concerned at some level, as are a third of those who rate it as excellent.

The type of water in one’s home also has a significant impact. Residents who use city water are more concerned than those with access to well water – 55 percent (35 percent very, 20 percent somewhat) versus 36 percent (20 percent very, 16 percent somewhat).

Likewise, users of filtered water (53 percent) and especially bottled water (62 percent) are more likely to express concern than those who drink water right from the tap (40 percent). The relationship goes both ways: those who express the most concern are least likely to drink tap water and more likely to use an alternative method.

Views on the severity of water pollution, in general, follow similar patterns. Thirty-two percent of residents who rate their own water as fair and 66 percent who rate it as poor believe water pollution is very serious; about one in ten say the same among those who rate their water as good or excellent. Residents who use bottled or filtered water are also more likely than those who drink tap water to believe the problem is very serious. Those who say the problem is very serious are least likely to use tap water.

Opinions on the severity of water pollution and concern over drinking water go hand in hand: the more one is concerned, the more likely he or she is to believe water pollution is a serious problem, and the more likely one is to believe water pollution is serious, the more concerned he or she is about tap water quality.

The water quality divide

Almost two-thirds of New Jerseyans say the quality of their tap water is good or excellent, but a closer look reveals disparities in access, usage, and ratings among certain demographic groups.

Non-white residents are more likely than white residents to have city water where they live (84 percent versus 79 percent), as well as more likely to use bottled water for drinking (44 percent to 32 percent). They are, in turn, less likely than white residents to rate the quality of their drinking water as good (42 percent to 47 percent) or excellent (15 percent versus 22 percent).

Those living in the state’s southern region near Philadelphia, or in shore or especially exurban counties, are most likely to have access to well water and thus more likely than urban or suburban residents to use their tap water for drinking. Almost three quarters of urban and suburban residents use bottled or filtered water as their main drinking source. Urban and especially suburban residents are also most likely to give their home tap water negative ratings.

Those in the highest income bracket are almost twice as likely as those in less affluent households to have well water (at 21 percent). Almost half of low-income residents use bottled water for drinking, more than any other income bracket. Water ratings increase with income: 61 percent say their water is excellent or good among those in households making $50,000 or less annually, compared to 69 percent among those making $150,000 or more.

While ratings vary little between those with city and well water, residents using city water are much less likely to drink straight from the tap than those with well water.

Residents who predominantly use tap water instead of bottle or filtered water give much higher ratings to the quality of water in their home.

“Race, income, and location drive disparities in tap water access and usage and, in turn, shape ratings on home tap water quality,” said Koning. “Non-white, urban, and lower income residents tend to perceive their water as lower quality, and the situation in Flint as well as recent reports of lead problems here in New Jersey suggest they may have reason for that concern.”

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Atlantic City Running Out of Luck with New Jerseyans? A Look at the State Takeover and Casino Expansion in the Garden State

Once a treasured part of the Garden State, Atlantic City has lost its luster with New Jerseyans in recent years – now to the point where a bare majority of New Jerseyans believe Atlantic City should handle its financial problems on its own without the state stepping in. Garden Staters see little hope for AC’s future, in general, and fewer residents are planning visits to the resort town in the near future than they were in years past. Combined with more division among New Jerseyans over whether casinos should be allowed elsewhere in the state and knowing these new casinos could hurt Atlantic City further, “America’s Playground” seems to be running out of luck.

Click here for a PDF of the release text, questions, and tables. 

NEW JERSEYANS DIVIDED ON STATE TAKEOVER OF ATLANTIC CITY AND NEW CASINOS ELSEWHERE IN STATE

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Atlantic City’s financial situation continues to worsen, but a bare majority of New Jerseyans believes the state should not intervene, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. When told that current legislation would enable a state takeover of Atlantic City to stabilize its finances, 51 percent think Atlantic City should handle these issues on its own, while 44 percent say New Jersey should step in and assume greater control.

This reverses last year’s view, when New Jerseyans solidly agreed that the state should help Atlantic City – though help at the time consisted only of a plan by an emergency management team and not an entire takeover.

“A number of New Jerseyans see both sides here, but public opinion is ultimately against the takeover legislation proposed by Governor Christie and state Senate President Sweeney,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. “Whether this is due to residents’ issue with a state takeover of any kind or ever-fading hopes of a bright future for Atlantic City, it seems that the resort town is no longer treasured by New Jerseyans as it was decades ago.”

Regarding another controversial piece of Atlantic City-related legislation, Garden Staters still are divided on permitting gambling elsewhere in the state, though the balance has shifted since October 2014. Residents are now slightly more likely to think that gambling should be limited to Atlantic City (now at 49 percent, up six points) rather than believe it should be allowed elsewhere in the state (now at 44 percent, down three points).

Division over new casinos in other parts of New Jersey stems from respondents’ views of the potential effects these casinos could have. Fifty-seven percent feel that the presence of new casinos would hurt Atlantic City itself, while 21 percent believe they would help the town and another 19 percent say they would make no difference. Additional casinos also are viewed more negatively when it comes to their impact on residents living nearby: 45 percent believe the additional casinos would hurt, while 34 percent say they would help and 16 percent think they would have no effect.

Yet a majority of New Jerseyans sees additional casinos as a positive influence on both tourism and the state economy. Fifty-five percent say adding casinos would help New Jersey with each.

Results are from a statewide poll of 801 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Feb. 18 to 23, 2016. The sample has a margin of error of +/-3.9 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.

State intervention most popular among Democrats, millennials, AC supporters

Atlantic City’s financial situation is a contentious issue with groups across the board; no group is overwhelmingly in favor of either side, with most showing a plurality or slight majority in favor of Atlantic City solving these issues by itself.

The issue is somewhat partisan. Over half of independents and Republicans want the town to handle its own issues, while four in 10 want the state to take action. Democrats are more split: 48 percent want the state to step in, versus 45 percent who want Atlantic City to handle the situation by itself.

Along with Democrats and liberals, millennials are one of few groups to show more support for a state takeover than for Atlantic City to be on its own, 52 percent to 46 percent. Those living near Philadelphia in the state’s southern region also show support for state intervention (52 percent to 46 percent), but those in shore counties are slightly more likely to believe Atlantic City should take care of these issues itself (43 percent to 50 percent).

State intervention gets some of its largest support from New Jerseyans who are more familiar with and more positive about Atlantic City. Fifty-one percent of those who have visited the resort town in the past year and 58 percent of those planning to visit in the coming year want the state government to step in. Sixty percent of those who are more hopeful about the town’s future also want an intervention, compared to 42 percent of those who say the town’s best days are behind it. Likewise, New Jerseyans who believe gambling is good for the state as a whole are more likely to want the state to intervene (at 55 percent) than those who believe gambling is bad (37 percent) or makes no difference (39 percent).

Ties to Atlantic City steer views on casino gambling elsewhere

Most groups are also split on whether or not additional casinos should be allowed in other parts of the state. Residents living near Philadelphia in southern counties (at 58 percent) or in shore counties (at 57 percent) are most supportive of limiting casino gambling to just Atlantic City.

This time, familiarity with Atlantic City and with gambling does not work in Atlantic City’s favor. Recent visitors to Atlantic City and those planning to visit are just as or more likely to support permitting gambling elsewhere, whereas those who have not visited or do not plan on visiting are more likely to support limiting gambling to the resort town. A majority of residents (53 percent) who say gambling is good for the state as a whole likewise believe gambling should be permitted elsewhere, while those who believe gambling is bad say just the opposite (at 67 percent).

New Jerseyans who are more optimistic about Atlantic City’s future are slightly more likely than those who hold a more pessimistic view to want gambling limited only to the resort town – 55 percent to 49 percent.

The good and bad of casino gambling

In general, a 39 percent plurality of residents feels that casino gambling has made no difference to the state as a whole, while another 37 percent believe it has been good for New Jersey; just 18 percent say gambling has been a bad thing. Positivity about gambling is markedly down since the 1980s and 1990s, when the activity was seen as largely positive in the state.

When it comes to the potential impact of additional casinos throughout the state, proximity to Atlantic City again plays a prominent role. Residents in South Jersey and shore counties are least likely to say adding casinos elsewhere will help tourism or the economy; they are also most likely to say the new casinos would hurt Atlantic City and residents located in the areas where they would be built.

Those who believe gambling is good for the state overall, those planning a visit to Atlantic City within the next year, and those who are more hopeful about the town’s future are all more likely than their counterparts to believe additional casinos would help tourism and the economy. These groups differ little from their counterparts on how much they think new casinos would hurt Atlantic City itself, but half who say Atlantic City’s best days are ahead and six in ten who say gambling is bad for the state believe that new casinos would hurt surrounding residents.

New Jerseyans who believe casino gambling should be permitted in other parts of the state are much more likely than those who believe it should be limited to Atlantic City to say the additional casinos would help tourism and the economy, as well as much less likely to say they would hurt Atlantic City itself or surrounding residents.

Bleak outlook for Atlantic City

New Jerseyans do not have high hopes for the place once deemed “America’s Playground”: 63 percent say Atlantic City’s best days are behind it, while 22 percent believe they are still to come – virtually unchanged since October 2014. Those who think Atlantic City should handle its own financial problems are more likely than those who support a state takeover to say the resort town’s best days are long gone, 68 percent to 60 percent. New Jerseyans who support casino gambling elsewhere in the state are likewise more negative than those who want to limit it about Atlantic City’s future, 66 percent to 62 percent.

Four in ten New Jerseyans say they have visited Atlantic City in the past year, and a third plan on visiting within the coming year. Even a majority of Atlantic City’s recent and future visitors believe the town’s best days are in the past.

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