By a margin of 73%-22%, New Jerseyans oppose a proposal to permit self-serve gas stations, according to an Eagleton-Rutgers poll released on Thursday morning that asked one question: “Do you prefer to pump your own gas or have your gas pumped for you.
“There is apparently one thing all New Jerseyans can agree on nowadays and that’s the time-honored Jersey tradition of having your gas pumped for you,” said Ashley Koning, an assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University.
The poll comes amid renewed debate over New Jersey’s 73-year tradition of full-service gas stations. A bi-partisan group of lawmakers have introduced the “Motorist Fueling Choice and Convenience Act” (A-3105), which ends a statutory prohibition of self-dispensing fuel.
Support for pumping your own gas is stringer among Republicans than Democrats or independents, although he plan is upside-down among every category of New Jerseyans.
Republicans oppose self-service gas by a 64%-34% margin, while Democrats oppose it, 82%-14%, and Independents by a 70%-24% margin.
Among men, 37% prefer to pump their own gas and 55% oppose it; among women, it’s 87%-11%.
Black (82%-15%) and Hispanic (79%-17%) support having gas pumped by attendants, while the number for white residents is 66%-30%).
Younger New Jerseyans are more willing to pump their own gas that people over age 65, but only by four percentage points.
“Let’s also remember that this single survey question does not reflect the full debate and complexities of the moment that include a global pandemic, an employment crisis, and now an oil crisis,” Koning said. “Context plays a crucial role in public opinion. A large majority wants full service in the Garden State, but this preference does not mean automatic opposition to a self-serve option.”
But the New Jersey Gasoline, Convenience Store and Automotive Association disagreed with the way Rutgers-Eagleton poll presented the options.
“The poll asked voters the wrong question,” said Sal Risalvato, the group’s executive director. “It’s not a binary choice between self-serve and full-serve. The legislation would mandate gas stations continue to offer full-serve while giving customers the option of pumping their own gas.”
A 2020 poll conducted by the organization said that 53% of New Jerseyans would support a system that gives people a choice.
“It’s clear from our internal polling that when people know they have a choice to pump their own or continue to receive full service, support for the proposal increases significantly while opposition melts away like yesterday’s snow,” Risalvato said. “What’s before the legislature right now is something that 100% of New Jerseyans can support.”
Primary sponsors of the proposed legislation are Assemblywomen Carol Murphy (D-Mount Laurel) and Annette Chaparro (D-Hoboken) and Assemblymen Ned Thomson (R-Sea Girt) and Clinton Calabrese (D-Cliffside Park). Co-sponsors are Rob Clifton (R-Aberdeen), Wayne DeAngelo (D-Hamilton), Kevin Rooney (R-Wyckoff), Angelica Jimenez (D-West New York), Vicky Flynn (R-Holmdel), Gerry Scharfenberger (R-Middletown), Shavonda Sumter (D-Paterson) and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-Trenton).
Rutgers-Eagleton polled 1,044 adults from February 25 to March 4 with a margin of error of +/- 3.5%.
This story was updated at 1:47 PM with comment from Risalvato.