Large majority believe Earth’s climate is changing; partisan divide persists on weather and climate-related issues

As extreme weather events become more common, New Jerseyans feel their homes are protected but are concerned they could be facing rising costs and believe upgrades will be needed in the future, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

About three-quarters say their current housing is “very” (18 percent) or “somewhat” (57 percent) protected from extreme weather events such as hurricanes, major storms and flooding; 18 percent say their residence is “not very” protected, and 5 percent say “not at all.” Nevertheless, 7 in 10 say they feel either “very” (33 percent) or “somewhat” (36 percent) concerned about rising housing costs because of extreme weather events.

Moreover, a majority of residents think that most homes and buildings in New Jersey will need some kind of upgrade because of extreme weather occurrences in the next couple of decades, whether they are major (43 percent) or minor (41 percent); 8 percent don’t believe upgrades are needed and 9 percent are unsure.

“While majorities across the board believe they are protected, and are concerned about future costs and upgrades, intensity of views on each of these issues varies among key groups,” said Ashley Koning, an assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP) at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “Significant demographic disparities emerge that reflect, and are no doubt influenced by, the real-life inequalities faced by many New Jerseyans based on where they live and why they live there.”

White residents (79 percent) are more likely to feel protected than Black residents (61 percent), Hispanic residents (71 percent) or residents who are multiracial or of other backgrounds (70 percent). Similarly, Hispanic residents (82 percent) and Black residents (76 percent) are more concerned than residents who are multiracial or of other backgrounds (69 percent) or white residents (63 percent) about rising costs.

Feeling protected increases as household income rises: Those in the lowest income bracket (63 percent) are less likely to feel protected than those in any other bracket by double digits. Conversely, concern over costs decreases as income rises – 78 percent among the lowest income bracket versus 60 percent among the highest income bracket.

“It’s a vicious cycle: Those who face economic barriers often reside in areas more prone to extreme weather events due to cost and lower desirability but are unable to relocate or pay for repairs and upgrades associated with these events, causing even more financial hardship,” Koning said.

Fewer women feel their housing is “very” or “somewhat” protected (70 percent) and are more concerned about housing costs (75 percent) than men (78 percent and 63 percent, respectively). Cost concerns decline as educational attainment increases. Additionally, Republicans feel more protected (83 percent) and less concerned (59 percent) about cost than Democrats (71 percent and 77 percent, respectively) or independents (73 percent and 68 percent, respectively).

Demographic differences on whether structural upgrades will be needed in the future follow similar patterns as views on protection and cost concerns. Black residents (67 percent) are far more likely to say that houses and properties will need major upgrades, compared with white residents (35 percent) and, to a lesser extent, Hispanic residents (50 percent) and residents who are multiracial or of other backgrounds (44 percent).

Those living in urban areas are most likely to feel major upgrades are needed (59 percent) compared with residents in other regions of the state. Additionally, nearly half of women believe major structural improvements will be needed because of extreme weather events (49 percent), compared with just over a third of men (37 percent). The perceived need for major upgrades declines as income increases.

Republicans are the least likely partisan group to foresee the state needing major upgrades in the wake of extreme weather events in the future: 28 percent think “major” upgrades are needed, while 51 percent say “minor” and 13 percent say none at all. Independents are more split – 41 percent “major,” 39 percent “minor.” Fifty-three percent of Democrats think “major” structural upgrades will be needed and 37 percent say “minor” upgrades are likely needed.

Slightly more than three-quarters (77 percent) of New Jerseyans believe Earth’s climate is changing; 12 percent don’t and 11 percent are unsure. At least 7 in 10 within every demographic group believes Earth’s climate is changing, except for Republicans. They are the least likely of any group by double-digits to believe Earth’s climate is changing – albeit it is still their majority response at 56 percent – and the most likely to say it isn’t (30 percent).

“Partisanship, once again, pervades everything – especially on an issue like Earth’s changing climate,” said Jessica Roman, a research associate at ECPIP. “Even in a state like New Jersey, the partisan divide on this issue is stark. Nevertheless, majorities of partisans of all stripes share similar opinions on climate’s present and future impact on housing, even if it is at varying levels of intensity.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 1,657 adults contacted through multiple modes, including by live interviewer on landline and cell phone, MMS text invitation to web, and the probability-based Rutgers-Eagleton/SSRS Garden State Panel from Dec. 13 to Dec. 23. The full sample has a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percentage points. The registered voter subsample contains 1,451 registered voters and has a margin of error of +/- 3.0 percentage points.