Poll: Pandemic increases the way New Jerseyans view their quality of life

The COVID-19 pandemic has somewhat increased the way New Jerseyans view their quality of life, standing at a record high just one year after reaching an all-time low.

Currently, more than 2 in 3, or 68%, gave New Jersey top marks as a place to live.

The new Monmouth University Poll found increases in a variety of life categories, including high ratings for hometowns, schools, safety and more. The increases were seen in nearly the entire state besides the most rural corners.

Monmouth, which produces a Garden State Quality of Life Index to serve as a resident-based indicator of the quality of life in New Jersey, said the index for April 2020 stands at +37, up from +24 in September 2019. The previous high was +31 in April 2012 and the prior low was +13 in February 2019.

“These positive results reflect a prevailing sense of goodwill as Garden State residents pull together in the current pandemic. Whether this can be maintained once the crisis is over is another question,” Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, said.

The index, Monmouth said, has hit high marks in almost every region in the state. Top scores hailed from:

  • Central Hills (Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset) at +49;
  • Northern Short (Monmouth, Ocean) at +46;
  • Northeast (Bergen, Passaic) at +41;
  • Route 1 Corridor (Mercer, Middlesex, Union) at +40;
  • Delaware Valley (Burlington, Camden, Gloucester) at +33;
  • Urban Core (Essex, Hudson) at +30.

In comparison, the state’s Garden Core, comprised of counties in the northwestern- and southwestern-most parts of the state, had a much lower score at +21.

“The most rural parts of New Jersey don’t seem to be experiencing the same sense of camaraderie as the rest of the state,” Murray said.

As a place to live on the whole, over two-thirds of residents agree the state is either an excellent (24%) or good (44%) place to live, while 23% said its fair and 7% said its poor. The state’s current positive rating of 68% is the highest level recorded since February 2013’s 68% and December 2012’s 72% (the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy). The highest mark recorded was in February 1987 at 84% and the lowest was in February 2019 at 61%. Over the past decade, the state has generally hovered around a low- to mid-60s rating.

The shift toward a more positive outlook has been seen among all demographic groups. Positive views of New Jersey as a place to live increased among both men (64% from 57% in September) and women (72% from 66%); white residents (72%, 63%) more than those of color (64%, 62%); those 35 to 54 years old (68%, 56%) more than those 18 to 34 years old (72%, 67%) and 55 and older (66%, 63%); and those earning more than $100,000 a year (74% from 64%) and between $50,000 and $100,000 (66% from 57%), but not from those earning less than $50,000 (65% from 64%).

Among some of the metrics that contribute to the index, the school rating saw the largest jump toward positive thinking. Ratings for the job of local schools stands at a combined 73% positive, an all-time high since 1978, with 33% saying its excellent, 40% good, 16% fair and 4% poor. The prior high was February 2012’s 68%.

“While the delivery of remote instruction may be uneven across districts, New Jersey schools are getting credit for doing the best they can under incredibly difficult circumstances,” Murray said.

The way New Jerseyans view their environment has also improved. The poll asked respondents to rate the quality of their local area and found 81% saw it positive with 36% who said it was excellent and 45% good, with 15% fair and 4% poor. The previous high marks were in May 2011 and August 2011, both at 79%.

Nearly 8 in 10 New Jerseyans (79%) had positive thoughts toward their own town or city, rating it excellent (39%) or good (40%), with 16% saying its fair and 5% poor. Prior highs for this were in April 2012 and August 2011, both at 76%.

Neighborhood safety also increased, with 74% of Garden Staters saying they feel safe at night. The prior high was 71% in July 2017. Another 22% said they feel somewhat safe and 3% do not feel safe.

“These local ratings have really driven Monmouth’s overall quality of life index into record territory. New Jerseyans are feeling very good about their neighbors right now,” Murray said.

The poll was conducted by phone from April 16 to 19 with 704 participants. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percentage points.

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