Poll: N.J. going sour on Sandy recovery

Public satisfaction with New Jersey’s Superstorm Sandy recovery effort has dropped below 50% for the first time since the storm hit nearly 18 months ago, according to the latest Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll.  Nearly 3-in-4 Garden State residents say that the aid process has been too slow and place the blame more on state management of the process than on federal regulatory requirements.

Just under half of New Jersey residents say they are either very (14%) or somewhat (34%) satisfied with the state’s Sandy recovery effort.  A similar number are either very (21%) or somewhat (22%) dissatisfied.  This marks the first time less than half the state expresses satisfaction with the recovery’s progress.  Statewide satisfaction surpassed two-thirds throughout 2013, topping out at 76% in September.  Satisfaction stood at 66% in December 2013 before falling to 55% in February of this year and then to 48% in the current poll.

Among those residents who live in New Jersey’s hardest hit communities, only 41% are satisfied with the state’s recovery efforts while a decided majority (54%) are dissatisfied.  In the remainder of the state, 49% are satisfied while 41% are dissatisfied.  This marks the first time that residents of hardest hit communities have shown a significant difference in satisfaction levels when compared to residents in other parts of the state.  In prior polls, these two groups’ satisfaction levels differed by no more than five percentage points.

Broadening the geographic scope, the current poll finds that most residents of the state’s four shore counties are now unhappy with recovery efforts; specifically, just 43% are satisfied and 52% are dissatisfied.  Residents along the northern stretch of the turnpike are evenly divided – 43% satisfied to 43% dissatisfied in the Northeast counties and 47% satisfied to 47% dissatisfied in the Route 1 corridor counties.  Only residents of the less impacted western portion of the state are still satisfied with New Jersey’s recovery efforts – 60% satisfied to 34% dissatisfied in the Northwest counties and 55% satisfied to 35% dissatisfied in the Southwest counties

“New Jerseyans remained very optimistic for the first year after Sandy hit, but their approval of the state’s recovery efforts have plunged by nearly 30 points over the past six months,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.  “Recent news about Sandy-funded projects being built far from impacted areas and the firing of state contractors responsible for processing aid application certainly haven’t helped perceptions.”

A bare majority (51%) of New Jerseyans remain at least somewhat confident that the state’s relief funds are being wisely spent, while 45% are not confident.  However, this confidence is a drop from prior poll results on this question which ranged between 60% and 64% confident in 2013 and 57% confident just two months ago.  Among residents of the state’s hardest hit communities, 45% are confident and 48% are not confident.  This marks the first time that residents of the state’s high-impact areas have been more likely to express little or no confidence in how the state is using the relief funds.

An overwhelming number (73%) of New Jerseyans say that the pace of getting relief funds to impacted residents has been too slow.  Only 21% say the pace has been about right.  The public is more divided, though, on whether the state has done a bad job (47%) or good job (43%) helping residents who still need to repair their homes given the circumstances.

Some critics have charged that the state’s application and disbursement process has been flawed.  The Christie administration maintains that the pace of recovery has been hampered by onerous federal regulations.  New Jerseyans who feel the pace of recovery has been too slow are more likely to feel that the state’s management of the relief program (46%) rather than required federal regulation (36%) is to blame for the delays.

The Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll was conducted by telephone with 803 New Jersey adults from March 30 to April 1, 2014.  This sample has a margin of error of + 3.5 percent.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute and originally published by the Asbury Park Press and its sister publications (Courier-Post, Courier News, Daily Journal, Daily Record, and Home News Tribune). Poll: N.J. going sour on Sandy recovery