Poll: Gas prices hit NJ hard

August 3, 2008 7:55:07 AM PDT
Amid high gas prices, a majority of New Jersey drivers have reduced their vacation and weekend driving and cut spending on other items, according to a new poll that also found most residents back oil drilling off the state's coast. The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll out Sunday also found 30 percent of respondents have actively shopped for a higher mileage vehicle and 20 percent have carpooled to help combat soaring fuel prices.

New Jersey gas prices hit a high of $3.995 per gallon on July 8, according to AAA.

"Among those who actually made vacation plans this year, 4-in-10 were forced to change them," said Patrick Murray, the Monmouth University Polling Institute director. "There's no doubt that gas prices have put a serious dent in New Jersey's summer fun."

The poll found 58 percent of Garden State residents have cut back their vacation and weekend driving, while 56 percent have reduced household spending on other things. It also found rising gas prices hitting lower income families hardest.

Half of those earning under $50,000 say they have felt a lot of hardship, compared to 38 percent of those earning $50,000 to $100,000 and just 23 percent of those earning more than $100,000.

Meanwhile, the poll found 53 percent believe the precipitous rise in gas prices is due mainly to speculation by stock market traders, rather than increased demand or lower supply.

When asked to choose a priority for U.S. energy policy, 46 percent back focusing on conservation and regulation of energy use and prices, with 44 percent supporting expanding exploration, drilling and construction of new power stations.

The poll found 83 percent favor requiring new cars get higher gas mileage; 82 percent back placing electricity-generating windmills off the New Jersey coast; 60 percent favor a windfall profits tax on oil companies; 59 percent back drilling for oil off the coast of Virginia and 56 percent support drilling off the New Jersey coast.

However, when asked about the potential impact of offshore drilling on the price at the pump, only 14 percent believe allowing this would be very likely to bring down gas prices, and another 35 percent say prices are somewhat likely to go down.

"It is perhaps a sign of the public's anxiety that many New Jerseyans support drilling off our coast, as well as elsewhere in the country, even though they don't have a lot of confidence it will actually bring down prices," Murray said.

The telephone poll of 1,004 New Jersey adults was conducted from July 17-21 and has a sampling error margin of 3.1 percent.

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