NJ - Monmouth poll finds offshore wind has become strongly partisan issue
Support for offshore wind at 54%-40%, far lower than in previous polls
Only a few years ago, offshore wind development in New Jersey was a broadly popular topic, with New Jerseyans of all political affiliations saying that they supported wind turbines off the Jersey Shore. But according to a new Monmouth University poll released today, those halcyon days are over.
54% of poll respondents said that they favor “placing electricity-generating wind farms off the coast of New Jersey,” while 40% said they opposed doing so. In 2019, the last time Monmouth asked the same question, its favorability ratio was 76%-15%; in 2011, it was 84%-10%.
The biggest reason for the decline, by far, is the steep drop in support among New Jersey Republicans: just 28% of Republicans favor offshore wind development, versus the 69% who favored it in 2019. Among independents, support has dropped from 77% in 2019 to 52% today, while Democratic support saw basically no change at all (79% then and 76% now).
“There was a time when wind energy was not really a political issue,” Monmouth University Polling Institute director Patrick Murray said in a release accompanying the poll. “It consistently received widespread bipartisan support for more than a decade. That is no longer the case.”
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Support for wind development is also particularly low – 43%-50% – among residents of the state’s four coastal counties, though that could in part be because those counties are more Republican than the state as a whole. Anti-wind sentiment along the Shore could play a role in key legislative races this year in Atlantic County’s 2nd district and Monmouth County’s 11th district, where offshore wind has already become a prominent campaign issue.
When offshore wind was first under discussion in the New Jersey Legislature more than a decade ago, it was a relatively uncontentious issue. The Offshore Wind Economic Development Act, which established tax credits for wind energy construction, passed the legislature on a widely bipartisan vote in 2010 and was signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican.
But in the last several years, Republicans in the legislature and in Congress have taken a stark stance against wind development, warning of the damage it would do to the ecosystem, the tourism industry, and New Jersey’s ratepayers. Today’s Monmouth poll shows that many of their most common attack lines seem to have sunk in, particularly among their own voters.
By far the biggest rallying cry of the anti-wind movement has been protecting marine life, after an unusually large spate of dead whales washed up along the Jersey shore earlier this year. There’s no evidence specifically linking those deaths to offshore wind development, which is still in its very early stages (no turbines have actually been erected yet), but according to the poll, the link has already been made in many New Jerseyans’ minds.
20% of respondents said offshore wind development is “definitely” contributing to whale strandings, and another 25% said it “probably” is; 35% said “probably not,” and 10% said “definitely not.” That comes out to 45%-45% overall, a notable divide given the lack of concrete proof establishing a connection.
New Jersey Republicans, particularly those representing parts of the Shore, have also warned that the turbines would negatively impact tourism. 40% of poll respondents agreed that offshore wind would hurt tourism, while 9% said it would help and 44% said it would have no impact.