SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. (AP) — Here's the real situation: It turns out MTV's "Jersey Shore" isn't killing New Jersey's reputation after all.
A new nationwide poll finds the reality show about a group of hard-drinking, foul-mouthed 20-somethings at a beach house in Seaside Heights, N.J., may even be helping a bit by bringing attention to the real Jersey shore.
The Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll, released Monday, found no statistical difference between those who have seen the show and those who haven't.
It also found that the series is drawing attention to the state's 127 miles of beaches and generating positive buzz for the Garden State as a whole.
"The show isn't hurting the nation's view of the state," said Peter Woolley, director of the poll. "In fact, it may be promoting one of the state's best features — not Snooki, but the shore itself. It seems to me viewers are looking past The Situation to the shore scene itself."
The poll found that 43 percent of those who have seen the show have a favorable opinion of New Jersey, while 41 percent who've never seen it also think New Jersey is great.
Michelle Diaz of Philadelphia was strolling the Seaside Heights boardwalk Friday with two friends when they happened upon Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino during a break from that day's taping of the show.
"A lot of people from other states think Jersey is trashy, but when you come here, it's a totally different scene," she said.
"It's a really beautiful beach here," added Patricia Garcia, also of Philadelphia. "We love it here."
They engaged Sorrentino in a brief conversation that soon took an interesting turn.
"I told him I got my stuff pierced — you know, my own situation," Garcia said. "He said he wanted to see it."
She politely declined.
Daniel Sajewski and Rafael Kieliszelic, both of Toronto, Canada, said the show makes New Jersey more interesting to people from elsewhere.
"Straight up? I love New Jersey!" Sajewski said. "It's (expletive) beautiful. What else can I say about a place like this. It's just beautiful."
A year ago, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie trashed the show, calling it "negative for New Jersey."
He told a TV interviewer the show "takes a bunch of New Yorkers, drops them at the Jersey Shore and tries to make America feel like this is New Jersey." Most of the cast members are from New York; two are from New Jersey.
Christie's press secretary, Michael Drewniak, told The Associated Press that the poll doesn't change the governor's opinion of the show.
"Honestly, I don't think the poll refutes the point that Snooki and company do not represent real New Jerseyans, the Jersey Shore or New Jersey in any way," he said. "Or that they are an embarrassment."
Regardless of who has seen the show and who hasn't, the poll found that overall, 41 percent of Americans have a favorable view of New Jersey, while 18 have an unfavorable view. Forty percent have mixed views or are unsure.
Among Midwesterners, New Jersey got a 37 percent favorable rating, with 17 percent giving the state a thumbs-down. The South and the West both approve of New Jersey by 41-15 percent margins.
Perhaps the most surprising result of the poll was that 69 percent of those surveyed had not seen an episode of "Jersey Shore."
The nationwide poll of 711 adults was conducted by telephone using land lines and cell phones from March 21 through March 27. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
"Jersey Shore" is currently filming its fourth season in Seaside Heights, where the series began. It also has included stops in Miami and Italy in previous seasons.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC