Life is good: Believe it or not, survey finds 80% of Jerseyans are happy

Life for New Jerseyans is apparently … surprise! … not that bad.

A joint survey conducted by Rutgers University’s Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and the Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll found roughly 80 percent of New Jerseyans are happy with their lives. Approximately 21 percent of respondents reported they were “very happy,” while 60 percent reported they were “pretty happy.”

However, the results also found 19 percent of respondents were “not too happy” with their lives in New Jersey and 3 percent to be “not happy at all.”

The results were consistent with Pew Research Center’s national polling on personal happiness, Rutgers and FDU said.

Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center at Rutgers-New Brunswick, and Krista Jenkins, professor of government at FDU and director of the Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll, reported that how and when New Jerseyans responded to the poll may have affected their results.

“Question order and survey mode can have a significant impact on how a respondent answers a survey question,” they said.

According to Koning and Jenkins, respondents can be influenced by the topics they have been asked about up until that point in the survey, the length of the survey and by whether or not they are talking to a live interviewer.

Those who were asked about their general happiness at the end of the survey were slightly more likely to say they were “very happy” than those who were asked at the beginning of the survey — 23 percent versus 19 percent.

Respondents who were contacted for the survey interview via phone were more likely to say they were “very happy” (26 percent) or “pretty happy” (61 percent) than those contacted online, who responded they were either “very happy” (17 percent) or “pretty happy” (59 percent).

The question order and survey mode, however, were not the only factors that affected participants’ responses. While the poll found that gender identity did not play a role in happiness levels, factors like race, income, politics and education significantly impacted survey results.

Race was found to have an impact on participants’ responses. About 23 percent of white residents responded they were “very happy,” reporting greater happiness levels than only 17 percent of black residents and 21 percent of Hispanic residents who answered the same. Indicating they were “pretty happy” were 64 percent of white residents, 62 percent of black residents and 50 percent of Hispanic residents.

As household income increases for New Jersey residents, so does their happiness. Some 31 percent of those in households with an annual income of $150,000 or more reported they were “very happy” — which is more than twice the amount of those in households with an annual income under $50,000, at only 14 percent.

Jenkins said that, although happiness means different things to different people, these types of results are expected.

“When the cost of living keeps going up, it’s not a surprise to see happiness appear elusive to those who are likely struggling the most to afford the basics,” she said. “Even if money can’t directly buy happiness, it certainly helps.”

Mirroring these results are those linked to political affiliation. Happiness was reported among 85 percent of independents and 82 percent of Republicans, but only 76 percent of Democrats.

Koning said Democratic leadership in New Jersey is not affecting independents or conservatives, but the difference in the results of the survey is linked to the demographics associated with each party.

“The reality is that these partisan differences are most likely picking up the different demographics that make up each party’s base. Lower income and non-white residents are more likely to be Democratic, while higher income and white residents are more likely to be Republican,” she said.

The survey also concluded that there was a slight difference in happiness for those with and without a college degree. Roughly 84 percent of those with a college degree who responded reported either being “very” or “pretty” happy, while only 79 percent without a degree responded the same.

For the survey’s full analysis, along with the poll’s questions and tables, click here or click here.