Divided times: Survey on state draws mixed conclusions

Try to figure this one out: A few months after the Democrats picked up five seats in the Assembly (nearly reversing their losses from two years prior) and maintained their substantial 25-15 margin in the state Senate, more people feel the state … is headed in the wrong direction than the right one?

At least, that’s the takeaway from the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, where 43% said the state is headed in the right direction, while 47% said it is on the wrong track; 11% were unsure.

The ratings of New Jersey as a whole have taken a few-point hit, too.

Slightly more than half said the Garden State is an “excellent” (12%) or “good” (40%) place to live — a small downturn for each from when last measured in 2022. Thirty-two percent rate life in New Jersey as “only fair” and another 15% as “poor,” up slightly from two years ago.

Ashley Koning, an assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University – New Brunswick, tried to make sense of it all.

“New Jerseyans’ outlook on the state continues to be divided in these polarizing times, and positive views on quality of life here are at their lowest point in over a decade,” she said. “Partisanship significantly colors perceptions of both the state’s present and future, as it does most issues these days, with Democrats in a much more optimistic mindset than either independents or Republicans.”

So, is the state good or bad?

Perhaps we’re just hard on ourselves.

To be sure, the state has been getting a lot of favorable ratings from reputable independent services. So much so that Choose New Jersey put out a scorecard during Gov. Phil Murphy’s recent economic mission trip to East Asia. It found the state ranked very high in a number of key categories, including:

  • Economic opportunity: No. 10;
  • Gun safety: No. 2;
  • Health care: No. 8;
  • Higher education: No. 4;
  • Improved business environment: No. 1 (to be fair, this means New Jersey made highest leap; it was No. 19 overall);
  • Live and work: No. 3;
  • Public safety: No. 3;
  • Raising a family: No. 7;
  • Reproductive rights: No. 1.