Medina, Harmon say poll on quality of life is another reason to act on disparity study

Heads of key minority chambers say greater economic opportunities are key to improving quality of life

The heads of the African American and Hispanic chambers of commerce didn’t need a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll to learn that those in their communities are not as satisfied with the quality of life as others.

The poll, released Tuesday morning, said state residents as a whole feel good about the quality of life in the state, with 72% saying their town or city was an excellent or good place to live.

But, when the poll is broken down by ethnic lines, there is a different outcome. Only 58% of Hispanic residents responded in those two categories and only 52% of Black residents

Carlos Medina. (File photos)

Carlos Medina, the CEO of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, and John Harmon, the CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, both said they felt economic opportunity — or the lack thereof — would be a major factor in the lower number.

They both pointed to the recently released disparity study from the state.

“The recently released disparity study by our state lay bare the gross economic inequities, which may have a correlating effect on an individual’s feelings about their community,” Harmon said. “The lack of investment in people from state’s economic opportunities leads to a number of unfortunate circumstances.”

John Harmon.

Medina said the poll numbers are troubling, considering the large impact Hispanic business owners have in the state.

“These results are concerning, as we recognize the significant contributions made by Hispanic and diverse businesses to the New Jersey economy,” he said.

The poll also indicated that Hispanic and Black residents feel less safe in their communities.

Ashley Koning, the director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling, said the results are striking.

“When we drill further down into the overall positive ratings of one’s local area and feelings of safety, it looks more like a tale of two New Jerseys,” she said.

“While a majority of every group has a positive view of their town and neighborhood, the striking disparities between some demographics in the degree to which they feel this way are indicative of the all-too-real gaps that exist across the state when it comes to issues like residents’ general welfare and well-being in their communities.”

Medina said he is hopeful that this poll will be another reason the issues in the disparity study need to be addressed.

“They serve as an indicator of an issue that Gov. (Phil) Murphy recently identified in the disparity study,” he said. “I am confident that he will take proactive steps to address them.”

Harmon, growing tired of studies and polls that show what he feels everyone already knows, said there is an urgent need to act now.

“In my opinion, New Jersey residents of a low social economic status feel hopeless, despondent, disconnected and they coexistence in society with less fulfillment — thus leading to a life of desperation and vulnerability,” he said. “The implications of that are typically not good.”