As lawmakers aim to give New Jersey motorists the option of pumping their own gas, a poll released on Thursday suggests that most people would stay in their cars if the law were ever to change.

An overwhelming 73% of New Jersey adults in a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll say they prefer having their gas pumped for them. Twenty-two percent say they'd prefer to perform the task themselves, and the rest are unsure.

"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, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers-New Brunswick.

While support for full service is widespread, there are some demographic differences that stand out, the largest being between men and women. In the poll, 87% of women prefer to have their gas pumped for them, compared to 55% of men. Thirty-seven percent of men prefer to be their own attendant, compared to 11% of women.

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At 30%, white residents are about twice as likely as Black residents and Hispanic residents to say they prefer self-serve. Self-serve is also a more popular option among those in higher income brackets, compared to individuals who make under $50,000 annually.

Majority support for having gas pumped runs across party lines, according to the poll. Democrats are most likely to prefer full service (82%), followed by Independents (70%) and Republicans (64%).

Koning notes that while the poll suggests a large majority wants full service in the Garden State, this preference doesn't translate to automatic opposition of a self-serve option.

Self-serve coming to NJ?

The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll was conducted from Feb. 25 to Mar. 4. Smack dab in the middle of that time frame, New Jersey lawmakers from both sides of the aisle introduced legislation that would bring self-serve gasoline to New Jersey, the only state that doesn't permit it.

The proposed law gives all gas stations the option to offer self-serve, and it requires that stations with more than four dispensers still make the full-service option available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., provided that the station is open to the public during those hours.

According to Sal Risalvato, executive director of the New Jersey Gasoline, Convenience Store and Automotive Association, most gas stations run more than four dispensers, meaning full service would still be an option for drivers at most stations if the bill were to become law.

Self-serve gas is expected to save motorists at least 15 cents a gallon, Risalvato noted — a big deal for drivers faced with rising gas prices as a result of the war in Ukraine.

In a November 2020 poll conducted on behalf of NJGCA, between 44% and 53% of respondents, depending on how the question was asked, favored a proposal that allows motorists to choose between self-serve and full service.

"Not only did previous polls show consumer support when asked if they would like a choice, but both this recent poll and our previous poll didn't ask if consumers would prefer self-serve if they could save 15 cents a gallon," Risalvato said. "What do you think respondents would answer to that question today?"

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