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Maybe NJ Isn’t Stronger than the Storm [AUDIO]

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and business owners at the Jersey Shore did and are doing all they can to convince people that the state is “Stronger than the Storm,” but it’s not working as well as they would have liked.

Governor Chris Christie
Governor Chris Christie waves to students on the beach after officially opening the newly rebuilt boardwalk in Belmar, N.J. (Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen)

Today’s Monmouth University-Asbury Park Press poll shows a lot of Garden Staters spent less time at the shore this summer than they typically do.

“We found that 38 percent of New Jerseyans actually spent less time down the shore this year than they normally do,” says Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “Back in February, seven-in-ten New Jerseyans said they planned to visit the shore, but only six-in-ten (58 percent) actually did it.”

Almost half (46 percent) say they spent about the same amount of time as usual and just 9 percent made the effort to spend more time down the shore this year. The lack of daytrippers contributed to the drop-off.

“Back in February, 43 percent said that they were going to go down for day trips,” says Murray. “Just 29 percent actually went down.”

Not all of the news is bad. The number who planned to stay for a week or more back in February (28 percent) matches up with the number who say they did stay overnight (29 percent) this past summer.

Among those who stayed overnight, 26 percent say they spent less time than usual, but a similar 22 percent spent more time than usual down the shore. Half (51 percent) of this group spent the same time as usual. Among those who didn’t visit the shore this summer, 42 percent said that this was less time than usual. In other words they usually go to the shore but did not visit this year.

“Forty-seven percent said that expectations that businesses wouldn’t be open after the storm (Sandy) was a factor in their decision to spend less time down shore this year,” explains Murray. “Forty-five percent said that the erratic weather that we had this past summer was something that kept them away. Thirty-one percent said that Sandy’s impact on their own financial resources was what kept them from spending some vacation time down the shore.”

Just under 4-in-10 say that feeling there would be a lack of shore rentals was either a major (20 percent) or minor (18 percent) factor in their decision to spend less time down the shore this year.

“There is no single factor that kept people away from the Jersey Shore this year,” says Murray. “A combination of unpredictable weather and assumptions about business closures seems to have depressed the number of potential day-trippers.”

Most Jerseyans are comfortable with the pace of Sandy recovery. About half (49 percent) say that the shore’s tourism industry recovery is where they expected it to be by now and 20 percent say the tourism industry has actually been rebuilt at a faster pace than they expected. Only 23 percent say that rebuilding the shore’s tourism industry has gone slower than expected.

The survey also asked whether Jersey’s recovery emphasis has been more on rebuilding shore tourism or has been equally devoted to helping affected homeowners. Nearly half (47 percent) say that the recovery has been focused on both efforts, but 39 percent think it has been focused more on tourism than homeowners.

Three-in-four New Jerseyans are either very satisfied (38 percent) or somewhat satisfied (38 percent) with the state’s Sandy recovery effort so far. Only 16 percent are dissatisfied. Most residents of the state’s hardest hit areas (75 percent) are also satisfied with the pace of recovery.

Life appears to be getting back to normal. Three-in-four (76 percent) say their family has fully recovered from the storm, 16 percent have partially recovered, 4 percent have barely recovered, and 2 percent have not recovered at all.

There’s a fairly high level of confidence that federal relief funding for Sandy recovery is being spent wisely. Six-in-ten feel that way. This includes 15 percent who are very confident and 47 percent who are somewhat confident. Another 3-in-10 are not too (17 percent) or not at all (13 percent) confident.

The poll was conducted by telephone with 783 New Jersey adults from Sept. 6 to 10, 2013 and has a margin of error of + 3.5 percent.

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