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Monmouth University Polling Institute

E-Government in New Jersey

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Internet the preferred method for local government information

So where do New Jerseyans go to learn about their local government, what their taxes are, or when the trash will be picked up?  The preferred means of communication appears to be the internet, according to the Monmouth University/NJ Press Media Poll .

While 55% of Garden State residents say they made a personal visit to town hall in the past year, just as many - 58% - looked up information about their town on the internet.  These activities are more prevalent than phoning town hall (34%), sending an email (17%), or writing a letter (12%).

When asked what they would do first  to get information about government services, 36% would visit to their town's website, followed by 25% who would walk into town hall.  Just 1-in-10 residents say their first action would be to telephone town hall (8%) or a local official (3%).  More than 4-in-10 residents under the age of 55 say their first stop would be the town's website, compared to just 2-in-10 older residents who say the same.  On the other hand, those age 55 years and older (36%) are twice as likely as younger adults (19%) to say they would first pay a visit to town hall if they needed information or services.

Overall, two-thirds (66%) of residents say they are aware of their town's official government website and 43% have paid it a visit in the past year.  New Jerseyans who visit their town's website do so for a variety of reasons.  These include "web surfing" for general information (20%), getting information about trash or recycling pick-up (16%), finding phone numbers and contact information (10%), council or board meeting information (8%), tax information (7%), and permit or code information (7%).

Among those who have paid a visit to their town's website, 42% say they were entirely successful in their search and 32% say they found most of what they needed.  Another 25% of town website visitors say they were able to accomplish little or nothing of what they set out to do.

Overall, 38% of New Jerseyans say they would be very interested in getting more information about their municipal government and services online and another 34% would be somewhat interested.  Just over 1-in-4 (28%) would not be interested in finding out about their town online.  The types of local government information residents would like to be able to find on the internet include general town information and contact lists (13%), activity schedules (9%), official meeting information (9%), municipal budgets (8%), trash/recycling information (7%), crime statistics (7%), schools information (5%), and information about other services (5%).

"New Jerseyans are turning to the internet to check on their local government.  They currently report being able to find most of what they need there.  But as demand for online information increases, municipalities will be pressed to create websites that have more content and are easier to navigate," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

The poll also found that a small but significant number of New Jerseyans are using the internet to interact with government at the state and national levels as well.  Specifically, 30% report having renewed their driver's license or vehicle registration online in the past year.  Just under half (45%) have used the internet to find out about specific government services and a similar number (45%) have searched for public policy or issue information online.

In general, New Jerseyans are plugged in to the worldwide web at a somewhat greater rate than the rest of the country.  Only 18% of New Jerseyans report never having used the internet, compared to 23% of American adults.

A majority (52%) of Garden State residents use email or the internet several times a day, 14% go online about once a day, and 15% go online less often.  By comparison, less than half (46%) of U.S. adults use the internet multiple times a day.  About 6-in-10 residents under the age of 55 go online several times a day compared to 37% of older New Jerseyans.

Internet Use

NJ

US *

Internet User

82%

77%

     Several times a day

52%

46%

     Once a day

14%

12%

     Less often

16%

19%

Use social networking sites

50%

47%

Use Twitter

15%

9%

   *  Source:  Pew Internet and American Life Project, December 2010

Half of the Garden State public uses social networking sites like Facebook or instant communication services like Twitter.  This includes 15% who use both social networking sites and Twitter and 35% who use social networking only.  While the statewide use of social networking sites is on a par with nationwide reports, New Jerseyans are more likely than other Americans to use Twitter - 15% to 9%.

One-in-ten (9%) New Jersey adults update their status or post a "tweet" at least once a day - including 20% of those age 18 to 34.  Another 12% of state residents post updates at least once a week, 18% do so less often, and 11% report that they read the posts of other netizens  but don't post themselves.

The Monmouth University/NJ Press Media Poll  was conducted by telephone with 801 New Jersey adults from February 2 to 7, 2011.  This sample has a margin of error of ±  3.5 percent.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute and originally published by the New Jersey Press Media newspaper group (Asbury Park Press, Courier-Post, Courier News, Daily Journal, Daily Record, and Home News Tribune).

The questions referred to in this release are as follows:

1.      If you needed information about your town government or local services, where would you go to find that information?  What would you do first?

2.      Have you done any of the following in the past year?  [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]

3.      Does your town have an official government website or not, or don’t you know whether it does?  Have you ever visited your town’s official government website?  [If YES:  Was this in the past year, past five years, or longer ago?]

[Question 4 was asked only of those who have visited their town’s website, n=452, moe= +/- 4.6%]

4.      When you visited your town’s website, what were you trying to do or what were you looking for?  [Note: Results add to more than 100% because multiple responses were accepted]

 

[Question 5 was asked only of those who have visited their town’s website, n=452, moe= +/- 4.6%]

5.      How much of what you were trying to do on the website were you able to do – everything you were trying to do, most of it, only some of it, or none of it?

6.      In general, how interested would you be in getting information or services from your town on a website – very, somewhat, not too, or not at all interested?

[Question 7 was asked only of those who are interested in online information about their town,moe= +/- 3.8%]

7.      What information or services would you like to see on your town's website?  [Note: Results add to more than 100% because multiple responses were accepted]

8.      In the past 12 months, have you [READ ITEM]?

9.      About how often do you use the internet or email from home or at work – several times a day, about once a day, 3 to 5 days a week, 1 to 2 days a week, every few weeks, less often or never?

10.    Do you ever use a social networking site like MySpace, Facebook or LinkedIn.com?  Do you ever use Twitter or another service to share updates about yourself or to see updates about others?

11.    How often, if ever, do you post updates about yourself on a social networking site like, MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter – several times a day, about once a day, 3 to 5 days a week, 1 to 2 days a week, every few weeks, less often, or never?

 

The Monmouth University/NJ Press Media Poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute on February 2-7, 2011 with a statewide random sample of 801 adult residents.  Sampling and live telephone interviewing services were provided by Braun Research, Inc.  For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.  Sampling error increases as the sample size decreases, so statements based on various population subgroups, such as separate figures reported by gender or party identification, are subject to more error than are statements based on the total sample.  In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

It is the Monmouth University Polling Institute’s policy to conduct surveys of all adult New Jersey residents, including voters and non-voters, on issues that affect the state.  Specific voter surveys are conducted when appropriate during election cycles.

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and results by key demographic groups.

Download this Poll Report with all tables

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