Public Opinion Poll Has Lessons for Pinelands Advocates
By Carleton Montgomery
As part of a project with New Jersey Future, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, and Smart Growth America, PPA commissioned an opinion poll about smart growth issues by the Monmouth Polling Institute. So far as we can tell, this was the first public opinion polling on the Pinelands protection program. The poll was funded by the William Penn Foundation.
The poll gave some us some important results about the Pinelands:
- A majority of 55% report knowing “a great deal” or “some” about the Pinelands.
- Overwhelming numbers identify protecting clean water supply (91%) as very important, and strong majorities identify protecting farmland and open space (62%) and preserving the state’s remaining forests (67%) as very important.
- Two-thirds (66%) of those who have an opinion support the Pinelands protection program.
- Support for the Pinelands is completely bipartisan.
One result that presents more of a challenge for us is that majorities express support both for local government control of land use decisions and for regional and statewide management of development.
I think these results show it is possible to win broad, statewide recognition and support for initiatives like the Pinelands. It also shows that in New Jersey, it is possible to keep regional planning a bi-partisan cause even in today’s exceptionally divisive political culture
I also think the poll helps point to a critical need in public education. While 91% say clean water is very important, a lower 67% also say protecting remaining forests is very important. That means there is a good chunk of the public that does not yet see the critical connection between protecting water and preserving the forests which clean and store this water. Those who love the Pinelands need to help everyone understand that protecting clean water and protecting forests are just two sides of the same coin – you can’t have either one without the other.
The poll has lots of questions about smart growth issues beyond the Pinelands. Here is a link to the full report on the poll by the Monmouth Polling Institute.