New Jerseyans’ opinion of the quality of life in their home state has rebounded from the all-time low recorded earlier this year. Currently, 6-in-10 give positive marks to the Garden State as a place to live. The Monmouth University Poll also finds that residents’ views of their local communities remain positive and have not changed much over the past year.
Six-in-10 New Jersey residents say the state is either an excellent (15%) or good (46%) place to call home, while 26% say it is only fair and 12% rate the state as poor. The current positive rating of 61% is a marked improvement from the 50% record low recorded earlier this year as well as the 54% result in April 2018. The current findings are more in line with results from 2017 (59%) and 2016 (62%). Over the past decade, the state rating has generally been in the low- to mid-60s with a few exceptions. Prior to that, positive rating of the state was frequently in the 70s, even reaching as high as 84% in 1987.
“It wasn’t looking good earlier this year as public sentiment about life in the Garden State hit a four-decade low. But those numbers have certainly bounced back, at least for now,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.
Monmouth’s exclusive Garden State Quality of Life Index score now stands at +24, which is up from +13 in February. For six years prior to that, the index tended to seesaw between +18 and +26. The high mark for this index since Monmouth launched it nine years ago was +31 in April 2012.
The quality of life index score rebounded the most in the Delaware Valley (Burlington, Camden, Gloucester), rising by 29 points from a –3 score in February to a +26 score now. Most other regions of the state also saw increases, although not by as much. These include the affluent Central Hills (Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset) at +42 up from +27; the Northern Shore (Monmouth, Ocean) at +32 up from +21; the Route 1 Corridor (Mercer, Middlesex, Union) at +23 up from +16; the state’s Garden Core counties (the northwestern and southernmost parts of the state) at +17 up from +9; and the Urban Core (Essex, Hudson) at +10 up from –1. The Garden State Quality of Life Index continues to be the most stable in the Northeast region (Bergen, Passaic), now at +20 compared with +21 in February.
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 of New Jersey. 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.
More than 7-in-10 New Jerseyans rate their own town or city as an excellent (32%) or good (40%) place to live, with 20% saying it is only fair and 7% rating it as poor. The current 72% positive home town rating is up from 67% earlier this year and more in line with the 71% result in 2018.
The percentage of Garden State residents who currently feel very safe in their own neighborhoods at night (68%) is similar to polls from earlier this year (64%) and last year (65%). Another 27% say they feel somewhat safe and 5% do not feel safe at all.
Ratings for the job local schools are doing stands at 60% positive – 26% excellent and 34% good – which is similar to recent results (59% in February and 60% in 2018). Another 23% rate their schools as only fair and 9% say they are poor.
The current poll registers relatively high ratings for local environmental quality at 72% positive – 31% excellent and 41% good – which is similar to both February of this year (71%) and April 2018 (73%). Another 22% rate the local environment as only fair and 6% say it is poor.
“Ratings of local safety, schools, and the environment have remained relatively stable. The increase in the overall quality of life index has come mainly from a more positive outlook about New Jersey as a whole,” said Murray.
There have been a number of demographic shifts in the key state rating question since earlier this year. Positive reviews of New Jersey as a place to live have increased among both men (57%, up from 47%) and women (66%, up from 51%). By age, the state rating has improved the most among those 18 to 34 years old (67%, up from 47%), while it has also ticked up among those 35 to 54 years old (56%, up from 47%) and those aged 55 and older (63%, up from 54%). The state rating has increased among both white residents (63%, up from 49%) and New Jerseyans of color (62%, up from 52%). The state rating has also improved among those earning over $100,000 a year (64%, up from 49%), as well as those earning between $50,000 and $100,000 (57%, up from 48%) and those earning less than $50,000 (64%, up from 57%).
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GARDEN STATE QUALITY OF LIFE INDEX
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The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from September 12 to 16, 2019 with 713 New Jersey adults. The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percentage points. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch.
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