More than 6 in 10 New Jerseyans continue to give positive ratings to their home state as a place to live, but views of some local aspects of the state’s quality of life have declined, particularly around schools and safety. The Monmouth University Poll’s benchmark index rating has remained stable due to offsetting partisan shifts in opinion, with Republicans feeling more negative than at the beginning of the year and Democrats feeling more positive.
Monmouth’s exclusive Garden State Quality of Life Index score now stands at +23, which is similar to January’s +24 rating and slightly lower than last year’s +27 rating. The current reading is near the midpoint of scores since Monmouth first started tracking the quality of life index in 2010. The index number jumped to +37 at the beginning of the Covid pandemic in April 2020, but dropped back to +25 in May 2021. In prior years, the index rating ranged between +18 and +31, with an outlying low point of +13 registered in February 2019.
The statewide index score has held steady since the beginning of the year, but there have been some regional shifts. Specifically, the index score has dropped in counties making up the Northern Shore (from +35 to +23) and Garden Core (from +14 to +2) regions. It has gone up in the Delaware Valley region (from +19 to +29) and held steady elsewhere. The Central Hills region (+38) continues to record the highest quality of life index score.
These regional shifts correlate with a change in partisan views of New Jersey’s quality of life. The Garden State Quality of Life Index score has dropped among Republicans (from +16 to +5) since January, at the same time it has risen among Democrats (from +37 to +46) and held steady among independents (from +17 to +16). The Northern Shore and Garden Core regions are significantly more Republican than other parts of the state.
“As with everything in society today, how people view what’s going on in their own backyards seems to be filtered through a partisan lens,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.
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.
|GARDEN STATE QUALITY OF LIFE INDEX|
GARDEN STATE QUALITY OF LIFE INDEX
Examining individual components of the index finds that more than 6 in 10 New Jerseyans say the state is either an excellent (20%) or good (42%) place to live, while 25% say it is only fair and 12% rate the state as poor. The current positive rating of 62% is similar to recent poll results (63% in January 2023 and 64% in April 2022). The all-time high mark for this rating was 84% positive in February 1987. The record low was 50% in February 2019, but it improved to 61% by September of that year.
While state-level rating results have remained steady, some local metrics in the Garden State Quality of Life Index have dipped since the beginning of the year. Specifically, 70% of residents currently rate their own town or city as an excellent or good place to live. This is down from 77% who said the same in January but close to the 73% positive result in Monmouth’s 2022 poll. This rating has been given to fluctuations over the past decade, with a range of 67% to 79% since 2013. New Jerseyans’ ratings for environmental quality in their local area have been stable, currently at 75% positive, which is similar to both the beginning of this year (78%) and last year (76%).
The poll finds larger declines, however, in two areas – local schools and public safety. Currently, 56% of New Jerseyans rate their local schools as either excellent or good. This number stood at 60% positive in January and 63% positive last year. While the school rating did hover just above 50% positive for most of the late 1970s into the early 1990s, it has rarely dipped below the 60% mark in polling in the past three decades (hitting 59% in February 2019 and April 2013). Prior to the current poll, the previous low point for positive ratings of local schools was 52% in September 1993.
The percentage of New Jerseyans who currently feel very safe in their own neighborhoods at night stands at 58%, which is lower than 64% in January and 65% in 2022. This marks only the second time since 2010 that this metric fell below the 60% mark (58% in September 2014 and 59% in December 2010). It has generally ranged between 60% and 68% very safe while topping 70% on two occasions (71% in July 2017 and 74% in April 2020). However, polls taken in the 1980s and 1990s found a much lower sense of security among Garden State residents (between 42% and 53% very safe).
“Schools and safety have been hot-button topics for the past few years. It should come as no surprise that political clashes over these issues are having an impact on how New Jerseyans view their own quality of life in the state,” said Murray.