Poll: Support for offshore wind is plunging in New Jersey
A majority of New Jersey adults are still favor of the development of offshore wind energy, but support has plunged compared to just a few years ago, according to the latest Monmouth University Poll.
As New Jersey inches closer to getting its first offshore wind farm, the latest poll finds that just 54% are in favor of the move, and 40% oppose it. Support was at 76% and opposition was at 15% in a 2019 version of the poll.
Democratic support over the past four years has remained stable, but Republican backing has slipped from 69% to 28%. Support from independents moved from 77% to 52%.
"There was a time when wind energy was not really a political issue. It consistently received widespread bipartisan support for more than a decade. That is no longer the case," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
Offshore wind has been a priority for both President Joe Biden and Gov. Phil Murphy. The topic has attracted more attention over the past several months due to concerns from environment advocates that offshore wind development is causing marine mammal deaths in the region.
"There's an awful lot of interest right now, and frankly a lot of activity," said Tony MacDonald, director of the Urban Coast Institute at Monmouth University. "Now we're looking at offshore energy as a reality, and then, how does that impact our lives day to day? How does that impact local communities?"
Forty-five percent of poll respondents feel that projects related to offshore wind are either definitely or probably contributing to whale strandings. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say there's a connection.
The poll picked up on a strong correlation between support for wind energy and respondents' opinions on the beached whale phenomenon.
Forty percent of Garden Staters said that placing wind farms off the coast will hurt summer tourism at the Jersey Shore. Forty-four percent said it'll have no impact on tourism.
"Changing the status quo is very hard, and the state has set some very ambitious goals to move to more renewable energy sources and reduce fossil fuel emissions," MacDonald said. "Clearly the state and wind industry have to do a much better job in reaching out to communities to demonstrate the economic and environmental benefits of these projects, as well as to counter misinformation about threats to tourism and threats to whales."
A handful of planned wind farms off of New Jersey are at different stages of the development process. Ocean Wind 1, which is to be located 15 miles off of Atlantic City's coast, is at the permitting stage but is currently facing legal battles.