After months of reports of dead whales and dolphins washing up at the shore, New Jerseyans are split over the development of offshore wind farms, with 36% saying they should stop and 39% believing the project should continue, according to a new Fairleigh Dickinson University poll released this morning that hints at a potential electoral problem for Democrats in the upcoming midterm legislative elections.
Members of the two political parties view the issue differently: Democrats back continued development by a 53%-21% margin, while Republicans want to halt the project, 62%-21%; among independents, 47% say the building of wind farms should be paused., while 31% prefer it keep going.
Dan Cassino, the poll director and a professor of government and politics at FDU, says Gov. Phil Murphy hasn’t done enough to sell his proposal to the public — and to convince New Jerseyans that there is no evidence that offshore wind farms are responsible for the sudden increase in the death of the marine mammals.
“If we’re going to meet the Murphy administration’s green energy goals, New Jersey needs to build a lot of wind farms, and fast,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of Government and Politics at FDU and the poll director. “But the administration just hasn’t convinced the public that it’s a good idea.”
The poll numbers change dramatically when the question notes the allegation that wind farms are potentially related to whale and dolphin deaths. Without setting the context, support for wind farms is at 42%-33%, and support drops to 28%, with 46% in opposition.
“The argument that the wind farms are hurting cute, smart animals just craters support,” Cassino stated. “People concerned about the environment want to have green energy, but put that up against dolphins, and the dolphins are going to win every time.”
The most significant shift came from Democrats, where the support of wind farms dropped by 24 points when they were told about whales and dolphins. And geography doesn’t matter; the poll found that New Jerseyans living in coastal counties are no more concerned about the issue than those living in western New Jersey.
“This isn’t a regional issue in New Jersey,” said Cassino. “Whether you’re actually going to see the offshore wind farms doesn’t matter nearly as much as whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat.”
New Jersey residents with college degrees favor continued development by a 43%-33% margin, while those without a college degree want to stop development by thirteen points, 44%-30%
The poll was conducted between April 28 and May 6 with a sample size of 716 adult New Jersey residents and had a sample size of +/- 3.5%; some design effects of the FDU poll changed the margin of error to +/- 4.7%.