In a stunner (just joking), Jerseyans again say high taxes are top concern

Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, released Tuesday, mirrors results taken 50 years ago

Hmmm. Imagine that. New Jerseyans may not actually want to pay a little more to get a little more.

At least, that is the finding from the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, which found that New Jersey’s tax rates — including those for property taxes — are the state’s most important problem.

In the poll, released Tuesday, 39% of residents mentioned taxes when asked about the top issues facing the state, followed by 14% who said the economy and 10% who cited state government.

Ashley Koning, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, wasn’t surprised. Taxes have been the top issue of concern since the first Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, which was released in 1971.

“The more things change, the more they stay the same — at least when it comes to how residents view taxes,” she said.

“The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll — the first university-based statewide survey research center in the nation — has been taking the pulse of New Jerseyans for five decades now, and has perennially found taxes to be their biggest concern.”

The only change may be the intensity toward taxes. It’s growing.

In 1971, when the poll was first founded, taxes also took the top spot, at 26%, followed closely by crime and drug addiction at 24%, poverty, welfare and unemployment each at 24%, the environment at 23%, education at 22% and transportation at 11%.

“As we revisit some of the first questions the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll asked, in celebration of its 50th anniversary, it is clear that New Jerseyans’ frustration with taxes has not only withstood the test of time, but also intensified,” Koning said.

Taxes were the No. 1 concern across the board — particularly among Republicans (49%), men (44%) and white residents (42%). Taxes are also a concern among older residents, upper income residents and those living in exurban areas (52%).

New Jerseyans, moreover, do not believe that the state government is making much progress toward solving the state’s most important problem.

Only 7% said the state is doing a great deal about it, 18% said a fair amount, 34% said very little, and 36% said none at all. Those who specifically mentioned taxes as their biggest concern are especially negative: 48% said the state has made no progress at all on this issue, and another 37% said it has made very little progress.

Republicans are the most negative about the state — no matter the issue, 59% believed the government has made no progress — while Democrats are the most positive, with 43% saying the state has made a “great deal” or “fair amount” of progress.

Taxes polled well ahead of other issues that have been in the news.

Six percent of New Jerseyans mention the pandemic as an issue; problems with the state’s response to the pandemic, climate change and the environment, infrastructure, education, crime and drugs, and housing were considered to be major problems by under 5% of those polled.

Results are from a statewide poll of 1,008 adults contacted by live interviewers on landlines and cell phones from Oct. 21-27. The full sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percentage points.