Rutgers-Eagleton poll finds New Jerseyans agree with Gov. Christie's Atlantic City decision
Atlantic City has seen the closure of four casinos and the disappearance of more than 8,000 jobs in 2014 alone. In response to the city’s financial problems, Gov. Christie has recently appointed an emergency management team to the area.
The Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics conducted a poll in February to gauge the public’s perception of Christie’s decision.
Fifty-seven percent think Atlantic City should receive state assistance, whereas 35 percent believe the city should handle its economic issues alone. Seven percent remain uncertain.
The numbers indicate that some New Jerseyans believe the state should have different priorities , said David Redlawsk, a professor in the Department of Political Science and the director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling.
“It is recognized throughout the state that Atlantic City is having very serious financial problems and they’ve not been able to solve (the problems) alone,” he said. “But some see the cost of doing these things as negative.”
Redlawsk said the casino industry in general is suffering tremendously and affecting Atlantic City’s economy. When casinos were first introduced to Atlantic City in the 1970s, the city was the only place in the U.S. of its kind, aside from Las Vegas.
Surrounding states, such as Pennsylvania and Connecticut have built competing casinos in recent years, meaning Atlantic City no longer holds a monopoly in the industry, said Joseph Seneca, a professor in the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy.
“The casino industry has been hit by closure due to competition,” he said. “This past year, four casinos closed, including the iconic and expensive Revel Atlantic City hotel and casino.”
With the closure of casinos, the city loses money from property taxes and sees a jump in unemployment, Seneca said. But Atlantic City has tried transitioning into an entertainment and recreation center, rather than relying completely on gambling.
According to the poll, New Jersey residents are not fully aware of the state of Atlantic City’s economy.
Eleven percent have heard a lot about the emergency management team put in place, 27 percent have heard some, 28 percent say a little and 34 percent say nothing at all.
The situation in Atlantic City is worthy of understanding from a student’s perspective.
“Most Rutgers students are from New Jersey,” Redlawsk said. “What happens in Atlantic City is part of the economy of the state as a whole … If one part of the state is suffering, it does have the ability to affect everyone.”
The poll also weighed New Jersey residents’ perception of the city’s future. While 63 percent of respondents believe Atlantic City’s best days are behind it, 25 percent believe its best days are yet to come.
Those who recently visited Atlantic City in the past year were more likely to view its future as promising and worthy of receiving state assistance, Redlawsk said.
Sixty-eight percent of people who have gone to Atlantic City in the past year agree with Christie’s decision, while 51 percent of those who have not gone to Atlantic City disagree with the appointment of an emergency management team.
“If people go there, they see it as a resort and would like to see things improve, not fall apart,” Redlawsk said.
Christie’s decision receives broad support across all political affiliations, according to the poll. Sixty-one percent of Democrats, 55 percent of independents and 59 percent of Republicans agree with the appointment of an emergency management team.
“We did not find any partisanship,” Redlawsk said. “This is not an ideological issue.”
Throughout the years, there have been efforts by the state to dig Atlantic City out of debt, Redlawsk said. A team was assigned to the casino and boardwalk area of the city to improve the marketing.
The economy of Atlantic City affects the economy of New Jersey, Seneca said. Casinos are taxed by the state, so when the industry is hit with closures, jobs are lost, incomes are not earned and the state loses tax revenue.
The state is already hard-strapped for tax revenue and problems with infrastructure, transportation and higher education need to be addressed using public funds, Seneca said.
“The size of the losses in one year were very significant,” he said. “A lot of money has already been put into Atlantic City.”