MADISON, NJ - As the power outages and felled trees from Hurricane Sandy grow increasingly distant in New Jersey’s rearview mirror, attention to ongoing rebuilding efforts continues to come increasingly into focus. The most recent poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind finds that registered voters in the Garden State, by an approximate two-to-one margin, believe property owners should be required to rebuild in a way that makes their property better protected against significant weather events (64%), rather than being allowed to rebuild in whatever manner they choose (31%). A majority also favors the forfeiture of future assistance for future weather events should one rebuild in defiance of FEMA recommendations (58%), with a third (33%) who say individuals should be able to rebuild in whatever manner they choose and maintain their federal assistance.
“This is a touchy subject. On the one hand, there are the rights of property owners who wish to maintain their freedom to rebuild in the manner they both choose and can afford, while one must also consider the public’s right to make sure money isn’t spent on those who fail to take adequate precautions against the darker side of Mother Nature,” said Krista Jenkins, director of PublicMind and professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Garden Staters of all political and social stripes agree with mandated rebuilding in a specific way. Education is about the only clear predictor of attitudes toward rebuilding, with the educated more strongly in favor of directed rebuilding than those with less than a college degree. Those with college degrees are significantly more likely to say those affected should be required to rebuild in a specific way (72%) or run the risk of forfeiting future assistance (66%) as compared with those with high school degrees (53 and 45%) or some college (56 and 56%). Even partisanship, something that often divides Garden Staters on issues related to public spending and government intrusion into private matters, is unrelated to attitudes toward rebuilding.
Although the vast majority of Garden Staters were either unaffected personally by Sandy (64%) or are now completely recovered (21%), one in seven (15%) still say they’re struggling to get back what was lost over four months ago. Their plight is not going unacknowledged by many New Jersey residents. When asked if they were satisfied or unsatisfied with the pace of federal assistance to the state, half (51%) report dissatisfaction, while significantly fewer (30%) are satisfied.
“Taken as a whole, these numbers suggest that Garden Staters are looking for everyone to act responsibly in the aftermath of Sandy. Property owners should rebuild with adequate protections in place, and the federal government should do more to help the hardest hit,” said Jenkins.
The Fairleigh Dickinson University statewide poll of 702 registered voters was conducted by telephone with both landline and cell phones from March 4 through March 10, 2013, and has a margin of error of +/-3.7 percentage points.