Quality of life in N.J.: Rutgers poll shows differences based on race, gender, political affiliation

As a whole, residents like state and feel safe — but numbers take a turn when you drill down on certain communities

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While New Jerseyans as a whole rate the quality of life in their local area positively and feel safe where they live, perceptions vary widely based on who you ask and where they are located, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

In the simplest of phrases, a poll released Tuesday morning by the Rutgers Center for Public Interest Polling shows that ethnicity is a major factor in quality of life.

First, the overall results:

When asked about their town or city, 7 in 10 residents said it is an “excellent” (25%) or “good” (44%) place to live.

When asked about safety in their neighborhood, three in four residents said “excellent” (34%) or “good” (43%).

When asked if they feel safe at night, 9 in 10 said either “very” (49%) or “somewhat” (39%).

But, it’s a different story for some groups, who — while still positive about their community — were much less likely than their counterparts to feel favorably about where they reside.

Black residents and Hispanic residents were about 20 points less likely than white residents to rate their towns or cities “excellent” (52% for Blacks and 58% for Hispanics) compared with 74% overall.

Black and Hispanic residents were less likely than white residents to say they feel “very safe” in their neighborhood either day or night, by double digits.

Sixty-one percent of Blacks said they feel “very safe” during the day, as did the same number of Hispanics, compared with 77% of whites; 48% of Blacks and 34% of Hispanics felt “very safe” at night, compared with 57% of whites.

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.”

Region and socioeconomic status echoed racial and ethnic differences, too.

New Jerseyans in the lowest income bracket (54% town, 60% neighborhood) and those with a high school education or less (59% town, 66% neighborhood) were less likely than their counterparts to view their municipalities and neighborhoods as “excellent” or “good” places to live — often by double digits.

Residents living in urban areas of the state were less likely to rate their neighborhoods as “excellent” or “good” (63%) compared with those in other regions. In addition, women were less likely than men to rate their town or city positively (66% to 72%), while Democrats (75%) were more positive than Republicans (68%) and independents (64%).

The gender and political breakdown was interesting, too.

Women were slightly more likely than men to feel worried that they will become a crime victim (44%), coinciding with their lower likelihood of feeing safe. Worry declines as education rises.

Republicans (52%) were more likely to say they are worried about being a victim of a crime than either independents (41%) or Democrats (32%).

“Much like everything else, perceptions of safety and crime have also become influenced by partisanship,” Koning said. “Partisan differences are unsurprising, given the emphasis the Republican Party has put on law-and-order issues in recent election cycles.”

Results are from a statewide poll of 1,657 adults contacted through multiple modes, including by live interviewer on landline and cell phone, MMS text invitation to web from Dec. 13-Dec. 23. The full sample has a margin of error of +/-2.8 percentage points. The registered voter subsample contains 1,451 registered voters and has a margin of error of +/-3 percentage points.