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Gas Prices Soar, New Jerseyans Cope [AUDIO]

Prices at the pump approaching the $4.00 mark in the Garden State as they did this time last year and in the summer of 2008.

Matthew White, Townsquare Media

A new Monmouth University-New Jersey Press Media poll out today asks New Jerseyans how they skyrocketing gas prices are impacting them and what they’re doing about it.

Fully 4-in-10 (40%) New Jersey residents say they are experiencing a lot of financial hardship due to rising gasoline prices. Another 32% are feeling a little hardship and 28% say that they are feeling no financial pinch from gas prices. These findings are similar to New Jersey polls conducted in May 2011 and July 2008 but, the results differ somewhat from a recent national ABC News/Washington Post Poll which found 62% of Americans saying gas prices are a hardship, compared with 72% in New Jersey.

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Poll director Patrick Murray explains, “As we saw when gas prices reached this level in the past, New Jerseyans have turned to some familiar strategies to cope with the financial burden.”

56% of the state’s drivers say they have cut back on weekend or vacation driving and 57% have reduced general household spending. These numbers are slightly lower than the percentage reporting the same activities in May 2011 when it was 61% for both, but they are similar to the July 2008 poll when 58% cut back on driving and 56% cut back on other spending. In the current poll, 17% report carpooling to work, similar to the 18% reported in 2011 and 20% reported in 2008.

It should come as no surprise that rising gas prices are more likely to hurt low and middle income families, but less so than a year ago. Nearly half (46%) of those earning under $50,000 feel a lot of hardship, which is down from 55% last year. Just over 4-in-10 (42%) of those earning $50,000 to $100,000 are feeling a lot of hardship, down from 49% last year. 29% earning more than $100,000 say gas prices are causing them a lot of financial hardship, but this number is actually up from 21% a year ago.

The survey also asks New Jerseyans their thoughts on President Barack Obama and the U.S. Senate race in the Garden State. Among registered voters, the President’s job rating stands at 54% approve to 41% disapprove, a slight improvement on his 51% positive rating in February. 50% of New Jersey voters saying he deserves to be re-elected, up from 47% in February and 46% in October. Another 40% say it is time to have someone else in the Oval Office, which is down from 45% in February and 47% in October.

Obama will be sharing the New Jersey ballot with U.S. Senator Bob Menendez this November. The Senator’s numbers are not as high as the President’s, but they are in net positive territory. Menendez earns a 40% approval rating from Garden State voters to a 25% disapproval rating. 35% have no opinion on his job performance.

When asked whether Menendez deserves to be sent back to DC, just 26% of Garden State voters say “yes”, while 32% say “no” and a whopping 41% are undecided. Even 46% of state Democrats say they are uncommitted about the Senator’s reelection.

Menendez’s probable opponent in November, State Senator Joe Kyrillos, is recognized by just 19% of voters statewide, with 6% having a favorable opinion of him and 2% unfavorable. These numbers are basically unchanged from a poll taken shortly after the Republican launched his campaign in February.

Murray says, “Given President Obama’s improving prospects in New Jersey, the magic word in Menendez campaign headquarters right now has got to be “coattails’.”

The poll was conducted by telephone with 804 New Jersey adults from April 11 to 15, 2012. This sample has a margin of error of + 3.5 percent.

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