Rutgers Poll: 56% don’t want a gas tax hike

New Jersey residents continue to oppose a gas tax increase, according to this morning’s Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

Despite active support from various state lawmakers, about six in 10 New Jerseyans oppose hiking the gas tax no matter the context. Forty-one percent say they support the increase, compared with 56 percent who do not. Residents do not favor an increase even when told that the state’s gasoline tax – at 15 cents – is one of the lowest in the country.

“While not statistically significant, we may be seeing a slight uptick in generic support,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “In October, 38 percent were in favor of an increase, which was up seven points from April 2014. Even so, most New Jerseyans simply do not want a higher gas tax.”

One puzzle has been that, while “everyone agrees” that New Jersey roads are in terrible shape and the transportation trust fund used to improve them is broke, residents continue to oppose higher taxes dedicated to fixing the roads. The answer may be that apparently New Jersey drivers do not think the roads are actually that bad.

For the first time since 1980, Rutgers-Eagleton asked residents about the condition of local and state roads. Fifty-four percent replied that state roads – not including the Turnpike and Garden State Parkway, which are funded by tolls – are in either good (48 percent) or excellent (6 percent) shape. Another 36 percent see state roads as in only fair condition and 8 percent think they are in poor shape. This result is virtually unchanged from the 1980 poll.

Opinions on local roads are slightly more negative: 6 percent say they are excellent, while 33 percent call them good. A plurality of 41 percent says local road conditions are only fair, and 19 percent think they are poor.

“If New Jerseyans don’t actually think the roads are all that bad, it is going to be a hard sell to convince them to pay more taxes to maintain them,” noted Redlawsk. “In fact, not only do they not see the roads as crumbling for the most part, they also don’t think they are getting any worse: 42 percent think the roads are the same as the past few years, and a third actually says they’ve gotten better.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 750 residents contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Dec. 3-10, 2014, with a margin of error of +/-4.0 percentage points.

Rutgers Poll: 56% don’t want a gas tax hike