Monmouth Poll: Quality of life in N.J. is stable — but desire to leave is edging higher

Lies, damned lies — and statistics.

The latest example of that tried-and-true philosophy is out Monday morning, as the latest release from the Monmouth University Poll shows that the public’s views of the state’s quality of life and rating of the state as a good place to live are toward the higher end of their historical range — and come at a time when the same survey shows the number of residents who want to leave the state is at a high point.

Just to make it fun — and to stir more debate — it’s also true that there is a marked partisan gap when it comes to leaving, as more Republicans indicated a desire to leave than ever before.

Here are the statistics:

  • Quality of Life: Monmouth’s exclusive Garden State Quality of Life Index score now stands at +27, which is in line with last year’s +25 rating. (The index number had jumped to +37 at the beginning of the pandemic in April 2020.) Monmouth began tracking the metric in 2010. And, in the years prior, it tended to range between +18 and +31.
  • Leaving: A larger-than-ever number of New Jerseyans (59%) said they would like to move out of the state at some point. Prior polls that asked this question between 2007 and 2014 found from 49% to 53% who wanted to leave.

Quality of Life index

The Garden State Quality of Life Index was created by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in 2010 to serve as a resident-based indicator of the quality of life offered by the state. The index is based on five separate poll questions: overall opinion of the state as a place to live — which contributes half the index score — and 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 potentially range from -100 to +100.

What to make of it? Here is a take from Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

“It’s worth noting that the areas with the least positive views of New Jersey’s quality of life are the heavily Democratic urban areas and the heavily Republican rural counties,” he said.

A little under 2 in 3 New Jerseyans said the state is either an excellent (19%) or good (45%) place to live, while 22% say it is only fair and 13% rate the state as poor. The current positive rating of 64% is between last year’s 59% result and 68% in 2020. The all-time high mark for the state rating was 84% positive in February 1987. The record low was 50% in February 2019, but it improved to 61% by September of that year.