A new poll conducted by New Jersey-based Monmouth University finds the vast majority of Garden State residents support the development of electricity-generating wind farms off the state’s coast — which is significantly higher than public backing for oil drilling and expansion of nuclear power.
Nearly half of respondents said that wind development should be a major priority for the state in the coming decade. Here’s the breakdown: Three-quarters of New Jersey residents (76%) would favor placing electricity-generating wind farms off the coast of the state, while just 15% would oppose this action. Past support for offshore wind farms was slightly higher, ranging between 80% and 84% in polls taken between 2008 and 2011.
Support is high among Democrats (79%), independents (77%), and Republicans (69%).
“There is broad, bipartisan agreement that moving forward with offshore wind projects should be a priority. If New Jersey achieves Gov. Murphy’s ambitious goal of generating 3,500 MW of electricity from offshore wind by 2030, it will put the state on a path to a green energy future,” said Tony MacDonald, director of the Urban Coast Institute at Monmouth University.
About half of Garden State residents (48%) say significantly increasing the amount of offshore wind energy should be a major priority for New Jersey over the next 10 years. Another 34% say it should be a minor priority and just 11% say it should not be a priority at all. Two-thirds (66%) of Democrats say it should be a major priority. They are joined by 43% of independents and 32% of Republicans who say the same.
Few New Jersey residents believe that developing wind energy off the state’s coast will lead to an increase in their own utility rates. In the short term, just 19% expect that their rates would go up for the next few years, while 35% say their rates would actually decrease and another 35% say they would stay the same. Over the long term, just 15% expect their rates would be higher ten years from now, while a majority (52%) expect them to be lower than they would be if no new wind farms were developed. Another 24% expect to see no change in their rates a decade from now if the state develops more wind energy.
Younger residents under age 35 are more optimistic about their rates going down in the long run (65%) than are those aged 35 to 54 (52%) or those 55 and older (41%).
People who earn over $100,000 a year are more likely to believe their electricity rates will decrease (60%) in the long term if more wind energy is developed than are people who earn $50,000 to $100,000 (50%) or people who earn less than $50,000 (49%).
Although New Jersey residents are generally supportive of wind energy, 45% would oppose developing more wind farms if it caused their electricity rates to increase. Four-in-ten (41%) would still favor wind farm development. Slightly over half of Democrats (54%) would favor offshore wind farm development even if their electricity costs went up but only around one-third of independents (35%) and Republicans (30%) would favor it. There is a similar split by age: 53% of those aged 18 to 34 would favor offshore wind farm development while 36% of those aged 35 to 54 and 35% of people 55 and older would favor it.
Support for wind energy development is divided at each income level if it would cause electricity rates to increase over the next few years. Among those who earn less than $50,000 a year, 38% would still favor wind energy development if their rates went up while 42% would oppose it. Opinion stands at 40% favor and 50% oppose among those earning between $50,000 and $100,000 and at 45% favor and 42% oppose among those earning over $100,000.
“This could be tricky for clean energy advocates. Support for wind energy could drop once New Jersey ratepayers become aware of any development costs they will have to bear. However, they could become more willing to shoulder some of that investment if they are convinced it will lead to real environmental benefits,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.
A majority of New Jerseyans (58%) would support developing offshore wind energy even if their electricity rates increased, if they also felt this would significantly reduce carbon emissions and the reliance on fossil fuels. Just 28% are opposed. Most Democrats (74%) and independents (55%) would favor wind farm development under these circumstances, but few Republicans (36%) would join them. A majority of all age groups favor developing emissions-reducing offshore wind farms whose initial costs they would have to share, but those aged 18 to 34 (66%) are more likely to feel this way than are those aged 35 to 54 (56%) or those aged 55 and older (53%).
A majority (56%) of state residents think that protecting the environment should be a more important priority for U.S. energy policy right now while 25% say the priority should be keeping energy prices low. This opinion has not changed from a 2010 poll. Most Democrats (71%) and independents (58%) prioritize environmental protection, but a plurality of Republicans (40%) think the priority should be keeping energy prices low.
More than 2-in-3 New Jerseyans aged 18 to 34 (69%) say protecting the environment should be the priority of U.S. energy policy compared to about half of those aged 35 to 54 (52%) and those 55 and older (49%) who say the same.
More on the results can be found here.