MADISON, NJ - It has been over three weeks since Superstorm Sandy made landfall in New Jersey and brought with it historic destruction for Garden State residents. The latest panel survey of registered voters in the Garden State by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind finds that three-quarters (77%) give high marks to state government for its response to the storm. More than a quarter (28%) say the state did an “excellent” job and another half (49%) say the state did a “good” job in the days after Hurricane Sandy. Registered voters are more decisive when asked to respond to a choice of two statements. Eight-in-ten (83%) voters say “Government officials acted swiftly and decisively to help residents who were affected,” compared to just five percent who say “Government officials were more of an obstacle than a help to residents who were affected.”
“It remains early in the recovery effort, and many have a long way to go to find their way back to normal, but I think you can interpret these numbers as a vote of support for state workers and officials,” said Krista Jenkins, director of PublicMind and professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Registered voters also give themselves good marks for heeding the warnings before the storm. Three-quarters (75%) report their own readiness as “excellent” or “good.”
These positive self-evaluations may be especially good news, given that 41 percent of those polled believe extreme weather events are “very likely” to happen more often in New Jersey. An additional third (33%) believe extreme weather events are “somewhat likely” to happen more often.
“Having been hit by three debilitating storms in a little more than a year – Hurricane Irene, last year’s “Snowtober” storm, and now Sandy – residents may find these events akin to a new normal in weather patterns,” said Jenkins.
As for the role that government should or shouldn’t play in helping people to rebuild after Sandy-like events, a clear majority say the feds need to fund reconstruction and worry about how to pay for it later. Sixty-seven percent say it is all right to build now and worry later about how to pay, as compared with a fifth (21%) who believe the federal government shouldn’t spend money it doesn’t have, even if there is a natural disaster.
Turning to what respondents have to say about the widespread power outages in the state, 73 percent report a loss of power as a result of the storm, and of these, 61 percent were off the grid for five or more days. These people managed their outage a variety of ways, with more than half (52%) remaining in their home without the assistance of a generator, and another quarter who stayed put with the help of a generator (25%). The remainder went to a family or friend’s house (19%) or did something else (5%).
Despite the lengthy outages, respondents offer understanding appraisals of the power companies. Nearly three-quarters (69%) say their power company did the best they could, while a quarter (26%) said their company could have done better, despite the difficulties that accompany widespread outages.
“Not surprisingly, those with lengthier outages are less understanding,” said Jenkins, “but given the concerns raised over how long it took to get everyone back on the grid, these numbers should be welcome news to the power companies.”
The Fairleigh Dickinson University panel survey of 241 registered voters statewide was conducted by telephone using both landlines and cell phones from October 26 through October 29, 2012 and November 13 through November 18, 2012, and has a margin of error of +/-6.3 percentage points.