STATE — New Jersey’s tourism industry made an all-out effort to proclaim that the Jersey Shore was “stronger than the storm.” But spotty weather and expected business closures kept many Garden State residents from spending as much time as usual down the shore this past summer, according to a new Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll.
Nearly 4-in-10 (38%) New Jerseyans report that they spent less time down the shore this year than they normally do. Another 46% say they spent about the same amount of time as usual and just 9% made the effort to spend more time down the shore this year than they normally do.
Overall, 6-in-10 (58%) New Jerseyans visited the shore this past summer, including 29% who stayed overnight and another 29% who made at least one day trip. Back in February, 7-in-10 New Jerseyans said they planned to visit the shore this year. The drop-off between intentions last winter and actual reported visits came from those who planned to make short excursions – 43% intended to spend less than a week in February versus 29% who reported making day trips this past summer. On the other hand, the number who planned to stay for a week or more back in February (28%) matches up with the number who report actually staying overnight (29%) this past summer.
Among those who stayed overnight, 26% say they spent less time than usual, but a similar 22% spent more time than usual down the shore. Half (51%) of this group spent the same time as usual. Among those who made day trips only, 44% spent less time than usual down the shore and just 8% spent more time, while nearly half (47%) spent about the same time as usual. Among those who did not visit the shore this year, 42% said that this was less time than usual – in other words they usually go to the shore but did not visit this year. This group – typical shore visitors who decided to stay away in 2013 – represents nearly 1-in-6 New Jersey adults.
Poll respondents who did not visit the shore as often as usual were asked about four possible reasons they may have curtailed their beach time this year. Nearly half say the expectation that some businesses would not be open after the storm was a factor, including 25% who said this was a major factor and 22% a minor factor. A similar number blamed the summer’s erratic weather, including 22% who said the weather was a major factor and 23% a minor factor.
Just under 4-in-10 say that feeling there would be a lack of shore rentals was either a major (20%) or minor (18%) factor in their decision to spend less time down the shore this year. New Jerseyans’ own post-Sandy financial situation was less of a reason, with 3-in-10 saying Sandy’s impact on their own family was a major (16%) or minor (15%) reason they spent less time down the shore than they normally do.
“There is no single factor that kept people away from the Jersey Shore this year. A combination of unpredictable weather and assumptions about business closures seems to have depressed the number of potential day-trippers,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
New Jerseyans don’t seem to fault the pace of Sandy recovery for their perceptions of the shore’s readiness. About half (49%) say that the shore’s tourism industry recovery is where they expected it to be by now and 20% say the tourism industry has actually been rebuilt at a faster pace than they expected. Only 23% say that rebuilding the shore’s tourism industry has gone slower than expected. Interestingly, having spent time down the shore this year doesn’t seem to have had an impact on residents’ impressions. Those who made an overnight stay down the shore are only slightly more likely to say that the tourism industry has recovered faster than expected – 25% of overnight visitors feel this way, compared to 19% of day trippers and 17% of those who did not visit the shore. On the other hand, overnight visitors (22%), day-trippers (26%), and non-visitors (22%) are about equally as likely to say the rebuilding pace has been slower than expected.
The poll asked whether state residents feel that New Jersey’s recovery emphasis has been more on rebuilding shore tourism or has been equally devoted to helping tourism and affected homeowners. Nearly half (47%) say that the recovery effort has been focused on both efforts, while 39% say it has been focused more on tourism than homeowners. This view is shared by residents in the state’s hardest hit communities – 48% of those in Sandy impact zones say that the emphasis has been on both compared to 41% who say the emphasis has been more on tourism.
Half (52%) of New Jerseyans approve of what they see as the state’s rebuilding emphasis, while 33% disapprove. But the poll found that approval depends on where residents’ see that emphasis placed. Among those who say the state has been equally focused on tourism and homeowners, 80% approve of how the recovery effort has been distributed and just 12% disapprove. Among those who say that tourism has received most of the rebuilding attention, 64% disapprove of this emphasis and just 27% approve.
Overall, 6-in-10 New Jerseyans are confident that federal relief funding for Sandy recovery is being spent wisely, including 15% who are very confident and 47% who are somewhat confident. Another 3-in-10 are not too (17%) or not at all (13%) confident. The 62% who are at least somewhat confident that federal funds are being well-spent is similar to the 60% in April who were confident that they would be used wisely. Residents of the state’s hardest hit areas (61%) share this level of confidence.
Three-in-four New Jerseyans are either very satisfied (38%) or somewhat satisfied (38%) with the state’s Sandy recovery effort so far. Just 16% are dissatisfied. Most residents of the state’s hardest hit areas (75%) are also satisfied with the pace of recovery.
Three-in-four residents (76%) say their family has fully recovered from the storm, 16% have partially recovered, 4% have barely recovered, and 2% have not recovered at all. These findings are similar to past polls going back to December 2012, suggesting Sandy may have caused a permanent loss for many New Jerseyans.
The Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll was conducted by telephone with 783 New Jersey adults from September 6 to 10, 2013. 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).
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