Monmouth poll: Quality of life index is stable, but dips for local schools, neighborhood safety

More than 6 in 10 New Jerseyans continued to give positive ratings to their home state as a place to live, but views of some local aspects of the state’s quality of life have declined, particularly around schools and safety, according to the results from a Monmouth University poll released Wednesday.

And, to stir the pot a little more, the poll showed that there is a marked partisan gap when it comes to these views, as more Republicans feel more negative than Democrats.

“As with everything in society today, how people view what’s going on in their own backyards seems to be filtered through a partisan lens,” Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, said.

The Garden State Quality of Life Index score now stands at +23, which is slightly lower than last year’s +27 rating. The current reading is near the midpoint of scores since Monmouth first started tracking the quality of life index in 2010. The index number jumped to +37 at the beginning of the COVID pandemic in April 2020, but dropped back to +25 in May 2021.

While state-level rating results have remained steady, the poll found larger declines in two areas — local schools and public safety.

Currently, 56% of New Jerseyans rate their local schools as either excellent or good. This number stood at 63% positive last year. While the school rating did hover just above 50% positive for most of the late 1970s into the early 1990s, it has rarely dipped below the 60% mark in polling in the past three decades (hitting 59% in February 2019 and April 2013).

Additionally, the percentage of New Jerseyans who currently feel very safe in their own neighborhoods at night stands at 58%, which is lower than 65% in 2022. This marks only the second time since 2010 that this metric fell below the 60% mark (58% in September 2014 and 59% in December 2010).

“Schools and safety have been hot-button topics for the past few years. It should come as no surprise that political clashes over these issues are having an impact on how New Jerseyans view their own quality of life in the state,” Murray said.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from Aug. 10-14, with 814 New Jersey adults.