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Pandemic Spurs Positive Quality of Life Views

Hometown, environment, schools, safety ratings all hit high marks

New Jerseyans’ opinion of the quality of life in their home state stands at a record high just one year after hitting an all-time low. Currently, more than 2 in 3 give positive marks to the Garden State as a place to live. The Monmouth University Poll finds increases in many aspects of local life, including record high ratings for hometowns, schools, safety, and environmental quality. This increase in positive sentiment has occurred in nearly all parts of New Jersey except for the most rural corners of the state.

Monmouth’s exclusive Garden State Quality of Life Index score now stands at +37, which is up significantly from +24 in September 2019. The prior high for this index was +31 in April 2012 and the prior low was +13 in February 2019.

“These positive results reflect a prevailing sense of goodwill as Garden State residents pull together in the current pandemic. Whether this can be maintained once the crisis is over is another question,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

The quality of life index score is at all-time or near all-time high levels in every region of the state except one. The highest scores come from the affluent Central Hills region (Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset) at +49; the Northern Shore (Monmouth, Ocean) at +46; the Northeast region (Bergen, Passaic) at +41; and the Route 1 Corridor (Mercer, Middlesex, Union) at +40. The Delaware Valley (Burlington, Camden, Gloucester) at +33 and the Urban Core (Essex, Hudson) at +30 are somewhat lower but still record high levels. On the other hand, the state’s Garden Core (comprised of counties in the northwestern and southernmost parts of the state) registers a +21 quality of life index score. This number is only a few points higher than it was in September (+17) and is lower than the prior high of +31 in December 2012.

“The most rural parts of New Jersey don’t seem to be experiencing the same sense of camaraderie as the rest of the state,” said Murray.

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.

Just over two-thirds of New Jersey residents say the state is either an excellent (24%) or good (44%) place to live, while 23% say it is only fair and 7% rate the state as poor. The current positive rating of 68% is the highest level recorded in more than seven years. Positive ratings stood at 72% in December 2012 and 68% in February 2013, in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. The all-time high mark for the state rating was 84% positive in February 1987. The record low was 50% recorded in February of last year, but it had improved to 61% in September. Over the past decade, the state rating has generally been in the low- to mid-60s.

GARDEN STATE QUALITY OF LIFE INDEX
NJ TOTAL GENDER AGE RACE INCOME
Male Female 18-34 35-54 55+ White Black/ Hispanic <$50K $50-100K >$100K
April 2020 +37 +34 +41 +34 +38 +40 +43 +26 +29 +37 +44
September 2019 +24 +21 +26 +21 +20 +32 +31 +13 +18 +20 +33
February 2019 +13 +14 +12 +10 +11 +18 +17 +4 +2 +14 +20
April 2018 +18 +16 +20 +22 +14 +20 +22 +5 +8 +16 +27
July 2017 +25 +25 +24 +15 +26 +30 +32 +6 +8 +23 +41
July 2015 +18 +18 +18 +25 +11 +20 +24 +5 n/a n/a n/a
February 2015 +23 +21 +26 +26 +18 +28 +29 +10 +13 +30 +31
September 2014 +18 +19 +17 +12 +20 +20 +23 +5 +13 +15 +30
April 2014 +25 +24 +25 +31 +20 +25 +27 +16 +17 +24 +33
February 2014 +23 +28 +18 +23 +21 +26 +27 +11 +8 +23 +35
December 2013 +24 +25 +23 +24 +21 +27 +29 +10 +10 +24 +35
September 2013 +26 +26 +26 +27 +23 +30 +33 +10 +17 +25 +42
April 2013 +21 +19 +24 +19 +19 +27 +29 +3 +12 +19 +35
February 2013 +29 +28 +30 +30 +27 +31 +36 +12 +20 +30 +36
December 2012 +30 +31 +29 +30 +30 +30 +36 +14 +17 +33 +38
September 2012 +24 +28 +20 +16 +21 +32 +30 +5 +10 +23 +37
July 2012 +27 +26 +29 +21 +31 +30 +32 +16 +16 +31 +37
April 2012 +31 +33 +28 +25 +30 +37 +36 +19 +24 +28 +42
February 2012 +25 +20 +30 +25 +24 +26 +29 +13 +17 +23 +38
October 2011 +24 +24 +24 +23 +21 +29 +31 +7 +15 +25 +31
August 2011 +22 +25 +19 +27 +19 +21 +26 +9 +9 +22 +32
May 2011 +23 +24 +22 +23 +22 +23 +26 +14 +15 +22 +32
December 2010 +21 +20 +23 +23 +20 +23 +26 +13 +15 +21 +31

 

GARDEN STATE QUALITY OF LIFE INDEX
REGION COMMUNITY TYPE
North

east

Urban Core Route 1 Corridor Central Hills Northern Shore Delaware Valley Garden Core Urban Stable Town Growing

Suburb

April 2020 +41 +30 +40 +49 +46 +33 +21 +18 +41 +45
September 2019 +20 +10 +23 +42 +32 +26 +17 +6 +30 +30
February 2019 +21 -1 +16 +27 +21 -3 +9 -1 +15 +19
April 2018 +24 +8 +18 +34 +18 +14 +11 +2 +23 +24
July 2017 +25 +18 +34 +33 +35 +22 +13 +7 +31 +29
July 2015 +21 +4 +22 +35 +22 +17 +10 -2 +28 +23
February 2015 +31 +13 +24 +38 +31 +11 +19 +11 +30 +27
September 2014 +23 +8 +12 +42 +27 +18 +4 +10 +22 +19
April 2014 +24 +10 +22 +43 +29 +25 +23 +4 +26 +33
February 2014 +27 +16 +20 +37 +30 +14 +16 +6 +28 +28
December 2013 +31 +15 +26 +40 +25 +14 +17 +5 +29 +30
September 2013 +27 +8 +21 +52 +33 +27 +19 +1 +34 +32
April 2013 +31 +4 +19 +38 +22 +21 +21 -3 +30 +27
February 2013 +31 +17 +35 +37 +36 +25 +23 +11 +33 +36
December 2012 +36 +18 +26 +47 +40 +21 +31 +9 +37 +37
September 2012 +29 +14 +17 +45 +33 +26 +13 -1 +27 +31
July 2012 +37 +12 +30 +37 +34 +22 +18 +8 +34 +34
April 2012 +38 +26 +27 +44 +34 +22 +28 +20 +35 +36
February 2012 +33 +17 +27 +35 +29 +19 +22 +11 +31 +29
October 2011 +31 +6 +22 +45 +35 +18 +23 -1 +31 +34
August 2011 +24 +16 +21 +38 +27 +26 +6 +4 +29 +25
May 2011 +28 +17 +16 +41 +29 +22 +20 +6 +29 +28
December 2010 +26 +15 +22 +38 +23 +14 +17 +12 +23 +27

 

The shift in the state rating since last fall has been pretty much across the board demographically. Positive reviews of the Garden State as a place to live have increased among both men (64%, from 57% in September) and women (72%, from 66%). It has increased among white residents (72%, from 63%) more than among New Jerseyans of color (64%, from 62%). By age, the state rating has improved the most among those 35 to 54 years old (68%, from 56%) and less dramatically for those 18 to 34 years old (72%, from 67%) and 55 and older (66%, from 63%). The state rating has also improved among those earning over $100,000 a year (74%, from 64%) and between $50,000 and $100,000 (66%, from 57%), but it has not really moved among those earning less than $50,000 (65%, from 64%).

Among the local metrics that contribute to the index, the school rating has seen the biggest jump in positive opinion. Ratings for the job local schools are doing stand at 33% excellent, 40% good, 16% fair, and 4% poor. The combined 73% positive rating marks an all-time high for this question in New Jersey polling going back to 1978. The prior high was 68% in February 2012, although this rating generally hovered in the low 60s throughout the past decade.

“While the delivery of remote instruction may be uneven across districts, New Jersey schools are getting credit for doing the best they can under incredibly difficult circumstances,” said Murray.

Environmental ratings have also improved. The current poll registers ratings for local environmental quality at 81% positive – 36% excellent and 45% good. The prior high marks were 79% positive in polls from both May 2011 and August 2011. Another 15% in the current poll rate the local environment as only fair and 4% say it is poor.

Nearly 8 in 10 New Jerseyans rate their own town or city as an excellent (39%) or good (40%) place to live, with 16% saying it is only fair and 5% rating it as poor. The current 79% positive hometown rating surpasses the prior high of 76% recorded in both April 2012 and August 2011.

The percentage of Garden State residents who currently feel very safe in their own neighborhoods at night has ticked up to 74%. The prior high was 71% in July 2017. Another 22% say they feel somewhat safe and 3% do not feel safe at all in their neighborhoods at night.

“These local ratings have really driven Monmouth’s overall quality of life index into record territory. New Jerseyans are feeling very good about their neighbors right now,” said Murray.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from April 16 to 19, 2020 with 704 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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