Quality of life in N.J. at all-time low, poll finds: ‘Huge warning sign for state’s political leadership’

By Emily Bader
New Jersey | Feb 26, 2019 at 7:00 am

New Jersey residents’ quality of life is at an all-time low, according to the latest Monmouth University Polling Institute poll.

Half of poll recipients said New Jersey was a good (39 percent) or excellent (11 percent) place to live, while the other half said it is only fair (32 percent) or poor (17 percent).

The current 50 percent positive rating, the poll said, has declined 4 percent from last year’s poll, marking an all-time low since 1980.

“The state rating has bounced around the last few years, but this latest result marks a precipitous drop from any prior reading,” Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, said. “This is a huge warning sign for the state’s political leadership. If New Jerseyans aren’t confident that the situation will turn around, they will start voting with their feet.”

The poll said its exclusive Garden State Quality of Life Index score is at +13 (a record low), which is down 5 basis points from April 2018 and 13 basis points from July 2017. The index is based on five poll questions, which include overall opinion of the state as a place to live; ratings of one’s hometown; the performance of local schools; the quality of the local environment; and feelings of safety in one’s own neighborhood. The index can range, it said, from roughly -100 to +100.

More than two thirds of New Jersey residents rated their own town or city as an excellent (30 percent) or good (37 percent) place to live, while the rest said their hometown was fair (21 percent) or poor (11 percent).

When it comes to feeling safe in one’s own neighborhood, 67 percent of poll takers said they feel very safe, another 26 percent said they feel somewhat safe and 7 percent do not feel safe at all.

Most people in the state lean favorably toward local school performances, with 19 percent saying the job they are doing is excellent, 40 percent said good, 22 percent said only fair and 10 percent said they are poor.

The poll also registered high ratings of the quality of the local environment, with 71 percent saying it’s positive (27 percent excellent, 44 percent good). Another 21 percent said its only fair and 8 percent said its poor.

“New Jerseyans seem to separate their views of the state as a whole from how they feel about their own neighborhoods. The question is how much longer this can go on before statewide problems override the benefits of living in their local community,” Murray said.

Some other highlights from the poll include:

  • Positive reviews of New Jersey as a place to live remained even among men (47 percent), but dropped 9 percentage points among women (51 percent).
  • The state rating dropped 11 points among 18 to 34 years old (47 percent), dropped 5 points among 35 to 54 years old (47 percent) and was up 2 points among those 55 and older.
  • The state rating dropped 7 points among white non-Hispanic residents (49 percent) and 6 points among New Jerseyans of color (52 percent).
  • The state rating was down 12 points for residents earning more than $100,000 a year (49 percent) and 3 points for those earning between $50,000 and $100,000 (48 percent).

“Older low-income residents seem to be okay with the direction New Jersey is going.  It’s the younger wealth generators who are increasingly unhappy with it.  Policymakers have to ask themselves how the state will be able to serve the first group if the latter group flees the state,” Murray said.

The poll was conducted from Feb. 8 – 10 with 604 New Jersey residents. The questions have a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points.

Emily Bader | ebader@roi-nj.com | emilybader