With the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy's ill-fated trip to the Jersey Shore approaching, it's worth paying attention to how the storm did, or didn't, alter both the attitudes and actions of people affected by it.
First, the not-so-good news: A new Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll released this week indicates that despite the deluge of "The Shore is open for business!" messaging and the whole Stronger Than The Storm campaign, many New Jersyans actually spent less time at the Shore this past summer.
According to the poll results, released Wednesday, nearly 4 in 10 state residents say they spent less time at the Shore this year, though overall, 6 in 10 still made a day trip or overnight stay. The poll was less clear on exactly how much to blame Sandy was for that, as many blamed the season's erratic weather.
Something else to keep in mind: The poll only measured New Jersey residents, and not overall tourism numbers for the summer, which would include out-of-state visitors. Maybe it's me, but after the year the Jersey Shore has had, I can't find fault with anyone who might have needed a change of pace this year.
"There is no single factor that kept people away from the Jersey Shore this year. A combination of unpredictable weather and assumptions about business closures seems to have depressed the number of potential day-trippers," said Patrick Murray, director of Monmouth's Polling Institute.
In other post-Sandy research, a Rutgers psychologist's studies seem to show that Sandy may have made some younger voters more likely to vote for a politician running on a "green" platform -- even if it could mean tax increases. Further, the research showed that one positive effect of Sandy may have been in convincing formerly skeptical people that climate change is a man-made phenomenon.
Laurie Rudman's research, published in the journal Psychological Science, is based on two rounds of surveys she did among Rutgers undergraduate students, in 2010 and just after Hurrican Sandy last fall.
In 2010, she found that when given the choice between two fictional politicans -- one who favored environmental policies that could necessitate tax increases, and one who didn't -- respondents said they preferred the enviro-friendly candidate, but weren't more likely to vote for him in reality.
After Sandy, Rudman posed those questions again, along with some supplemental inquiries about whether respondents had been affected by the storm. Perhaps not surprisingly, the conclusions were somewhat different.
This time, students who had been personally affected by the storm were more likely to support more environmentally-friendly building practices and government regulation -- even if it meant higher taxes and some sacrifices in personal liberty. From the Rutgers release:
"The reason we get this shift between 2010 and 2012 is that so many people were personally affected," Rudman said. "The university was shut down for a week, so nobody was unaffected, but I had students who lost their homes, who couldn't get to school because they were still helping families or because they couldn't get gas for their cars."
Once again proving that experience may be the best teacher of them all.