Should the Garden State be doing more to harness the power of the wind?

A new survey finds there is widespread, bipartisan support for the development of wind farms off the Jersey coast.

Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said the survey found 76 percent of the state’s residents support placing energy-generating wind turbines out in the ocean.

“More than 7 in 10 across the board of Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike support the idea — just 15 percent oppose this,” he said.

In fact, “nearly half of the public, 48 percent say it should in fact be a major priority to do this to build these things.”

Meanwhile 34 percent say it should be a minor priority and 11 percent say it should not be a priority at all.

However, he said, when people were informed this kind of development might raise electric rates, at least in the near term while windmills are being build, “45 percent oppose it, and 41 percent still favor that process.”

Murray said the poll also found 58 percent of Jersey residents would support the development of wind energy even if costs did rise, if they also felt it would significantly reduce carbon emissions and reliance on fossil fuels, while 28 percent turned thumbs down on the idea.

He said the survey finds there is a lot of confusion about wind energy and start-up costs.

“Right now very few people feel that they will have to bear the cost in their electricity rates if these things are built," Murray said. "Just 19 percent expect that their electricity rates would go up, and in fact 35 percent feel they would see an almost immediate drop in the rates because of wind energy being created.”

The survey also found 35 percent believe electric rates wouldn’t change either way.

The poll also found developing wind power is significantly more popular than other energy options among Garden State residents.

“So, for example, off-shore drilling, which the federal government has been talking about, we just find 30 percent who are in favor of doing that, versus 61 percent, twice as many, who oppose it," Murray said.

Murray added the poll also finds nuclear power is not a popular option either.

“We find that just 26 percent would favor building another nuclear power plant in New Jersey, while 67 percent would oppose it.”

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from Feb. 8 to 10, with 604 New Jersey adults. Poll questions have a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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