Atlantic City skyline
Vernon Ogrodnek

As vacationers prepare for their Fourth of July trek to the Jersey Shore, a new statewide poll suggests that many of them are willing to “Do AC.”

A majority of New Jersey voters surveyed by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind polling institute would recommend Atlantic City as a vacation destination.

“Although there are some differences among key demographics in the state, the takeaway seems to be that people are proud of the historic gaming town and would be willing to recommend the area to someone looking for a vacation destination in New Jersey,” said Krista Jenkins, a political science professor and director of PublicMind.

For the past year, the casino-funded Atlantic City Alliance marketing coalition has been portraying the resort town as a diverse, upscale vacation spot in its splashy “Do AC” advertising campaign.

Alluding to the ad campaign, Fairleigh Dickinson noted that the poll results show that most New Jersey voters, or 56 percent, would recommend “doing” Atlantic City as a vacation retreat. Thirty-five percent said they would not recommend the city, while the remaining 9 percent were unsure.

Liza Cartmell, president of the Atlantic City Alliance, characterized the poll results as “great.” She said they are consistent with polling data compiled by the casinos a couple of years ago. She noted that the casinos’ data indicated that tourists who visit Atlantic City for the first time have a strong propensity for return trips.

“If we can get them to come here for an event, an experience or an offer, there is a high statistical degree that we can get them to come back,” she said.

Atlantic City has struggled with six straight years of declining casino revenue caused by the sluggish economy and intense competition from gambling markets in surrounding states.

Jenkins said despite those difficulties, the PublicMind poll indicates Atlantic City is getting strong support from the people of New Jersey, particularly among casino-goers and young vacationers.

“As New Jersey prepares to celebrate the Fourth of July and embark on a holiday weekend, these results should warm the hearts of Atlantic City defenders, who have seen their seaside community buffeted by declining revenues and outside competition for gaming dollars,” she said.

Nearly 60 percent of those polled characterized the city as “very safe” or somewhat safe.” However, 30 percent believe it is “somewhat unsafe” or “very unsafe.”

Moreover, 43 percent of those polled believe the city is clean and well-maintained. Thirty-four percent characterized the city as “dirty and not well-maintained.” The rest of the respondents were unsure.

Visits to a casino helped burnish the city’s image, the poll found. Those who had visited a casino in the past 12 months believe the city is safer and better maintained than those who haven’t been to a casino recently.

Cartmell said the more people visit Atlantic City to experience its evolution as a vacation resort, the more likely they are to change “longheld perceptions” that may not be favorable.

Younger people, a key demographic for the casino industry, are more predisposed to say positive things about Atlantic City, the poll also found.

Overall, young people, nonwhites, those without a college education and recent casino-goers proved to be the city’s strongest supporters, Fairleigh Dickinson said.

The poll surveyed 705 New Jersey voters by telephone from June 10 to 16. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percent.

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Senior copy editor for the Press of Atlantic City. Have worked as a reporter, copy editor and news editor with the paper since 1985. A graduate of the University of Delaware.