New Jersey’s heritage tourism – centering around the state’s role in the American Revolution – is sorely underused according to advocates, and a new poll suggests that many residents agree.
“Many residents place the Garden State a notch below Massachusetts, Virginia, and Pennsylvania in terms of its American Revolution significance, even though George Washington spent more time in New Jersey during the war than any of the original colonies,” reads the Tuesday report from the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
The analyses comes as the state gauges how it can begin promoting its heritage tourism industry ahead of the 250th anniversary of the United States’ founding, in 2026.
To that end, the state appropriated $150,000 in the current budget to the New Jersey Historical Commission for its work with the nonprofit Crossroads of the American Revolution on the “Revolution NJ” project which will commemorate the anniversary with a variety of programs and events.
“Considering some of the state’s major sites, from the tide-turning Ten Crucial Days campaign to the Morristown encampments to the largest artillery battle of the war at Monmouth, New Jersey has really been keeping its American Revolution light under a bushel,” Pat Murray, who heads the polling institute and previously sat on Crossroads’ board, said Tuesday.
Only 28 percent, or one in three New Jerseyans, visited an American Revolution site in the state within the past five years, according to the poll, which interviewed 713 New Jersey adults between Sept. 13 and Sept. 16, and had a 3.7 percent margin of error.
But only 30 percent report visited any Revolutionary War sites whatsoever in the past five years, in New Jersey or elsewhere.
Historically, New Jersey has struggled to promote the association. Although in New Jersey many respondents associate the state with the American Revolution, nationwide very few Americans see the relationship between the two.
In November, 16 percent of New Jersey adults associated New Jersey with the American Revolution, just behind Massachusetts at 20 percent, equal to Virginia at 16 percent and ahead of Pennsylvania with 15 percent.
But a nationwide Monmouth poll from June 2019 found that only 1 percent of Americans associated New Jersey with the American Revolution, compared to 24 percent who selected Massachusetts, 18 percent who selected Virginia and 12 percent who selected Pennsylvania.
Likewise, only 52 percent of New Jerseyans said that the state was one of the most prominent during the war, compared to 67 percent who chose Massachusetts and Virginia, and 64 percent who chose Pennsylvania.
“There seems to be fairly widespread interest in American Revolution-related tourism. The key is building more of it in New Jersey and that starts with higher in-state visibility,” Murray added.
Indeed, the poll found that 84 percent of state residents felt that preserving and promoting the state’s role in the American Revolution was important and 61 percent of state residents knew of Revolutionary War sites in New Jersey.
A 2013 study by consultancy Tourism Economics commissioned by the New Jersey Historic Trust reported that in 2012, 11 million tourists visited New Jersey for its historic sites and spent more than $2.8 billion, generating $335 million in state and local taxes and $380 million in federal taxes.