The Geography of Support for Open-Space Initiatives: A Case Study of New Jersey's 1998 Ballot Measure


  • *Direct correspondence to William D. Solecki, Department of Geography, Hunter College of the City University of New York, 695 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10021 〈〉. The above-named author will share all data, including all coding information, with those wishing to replicate the study.


Objectives. By a two to one margin, New Jersey voters in 1998 approved a ballot measure authorizing a 10-year, 1-billion dollar open-space acquisition program. This article's principal objectives are to investigate and explain the spatial character of that vote.

Methods. Our methods consists of regression and principal components analyses; we use municipal-level data to define statewide patterns of voter support and participation in relation to a series of socioeconomic, political, and environmental variables.

Results. The analyses yielded two major findings: (1) support for the ballot measure was widespread, but exceptionally strong in the “wealth belt” area of north-central New Jersey, and (2) voter participation, defined as those voting on the measure as a proportion of all who voted, lagged in the core urban areas.

Conclusions. Our conclusions point critically to the importance of socioeconomic status, urban residence, and presence of existing open-space regulations—as well as rapid changes in the overall sociopolitical landscape—in explaining voter behavior.