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Cost of Living is Key Factor in Desire to Leave State; Property Taxes Top Issue List

New Jersey

Stay NJ senior tax cut program may change some minds

West Long Branch, NJ – Property taxes and economic issues, such as the cost of living, are the biggest top-of-mind concerns for New Jersey residents when thinking about the state’s most important issues. According to the Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll, about half want to leave the state – although just over a quarter say they are very likely to do so – with cost of living being a key factor in that decision. The poll finds little awareness of the yet to be implemented Stay NJ senior property tax cut program. However, the results also suggest the program may lead some homeowners who want to leave the state to reconsider. In other poll findings, Monmouth’s benchmark Garden State Quality of Life Index has remained stable over the past year.

About half of Garden State residents mention some form of taxes when asked to name the most important issues facing New Jersey right now. Property taxes (39%) tops this list, as it has on almost every occasion Monmouth has asked this top-of-mind question going back to 2009. The second most frequently mentioned issue is the economy and cost of living (24%) which has not registered this high a concern since the 2009 gubernatorial election (27%). From 2012 to 2021, fewer New Jerseyans (between 10% and 19%) mentioned this as one of the state’s most pressing issues. There is little difference by political party in the number who name either property taxes or the economy as top issues in New Jersey.

Graph titled: Move out of New Jersey. Refer to question 28 for details.

Currently, 48% of New Jerseyans say they would like to move out of the state at some point. This number is lower than in 2022 (59%), but in line with prior polling on this question between 2007 and 2014.  Republicans (60%) and independents (57%) are more likely than Democrats (31%) to want to leave New Jersey. Those under the age of 55 (57% age 18-34 and 54% age 35-54) are more likely than those age 55 and older (37%) to want to leave. Those earning over $100,000 a year (55%) are more likely than lower income earners (43% earning $50,000-$100,000 and 41% earning under $50,000) to feel the same.  Regardless of their desire to leave, 28% of New Jerseyans say it is very likely they will actually move out of the state at some point in their lives and another 27% say this is somewhat likely. The number saying they are very likely to leave the state is down from 2022 (36%), but similar to prior polls taken in 2007 (28%) and 2014 (26%). Those earning over $100,000 (34%) have a greater chance of being very likely to leave the state than those making between $50,000 and $100,000 (25%) or less than $50,000 (16%).

Among those who want to leave New Jersey, 43% say the state’s cost of living is the most important factor behind their desire to move out, while 52% say it is one of several top factors. Just 5% say it is not a factor at all. Among those who say they are at least somewhat likely to actually leave the state, most say the move will come after retirement (63%, a number that includes those who are already retired).

“Take New Jersey’s already high cost of living and add inflationary pressures to it. This may not be driving out more people than in the past but it certainly isn’t helping to reduce out-migration,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

The state is about to implement a new program called Stay NJ that will cut property taxes in half for nearly all senior homeowners. Just 36% of New Jersey residents have heard at least a little about this, including 36% of those age 55 and older. The program will have an income cap of $500,000 per year. Monmouth asked about a cap in the poll. Just 3 in 10 New Jerseyans say the program should have a lower cap (17% at $250,000 annual income and 13% at $150,000), while 15% would cap it at $500,000 or higher. However, fully half (50%) would not cap it at all, saying the program should be available to all senior homeowners regardless of income.

The Stay NJ property tax cut program is scheduled to start in 2026. Assuming it is implemented, 27% of all New Jerseyans say they would be a lot more likely to remain in the state and 26% would be a little more likely. Another 45% say this program would have no impact on their decision whether to stay or leave. Focusing just on those New Jerseyans who say they are very likely to move out of state at some point, the Stay NJ program will make 16% of this group a lot more likely to remain and 29% a little more likely, but just over half (53%) say it would not affect their decision. These numbers shift, though, among current likely leavers who are age 55 and over – 21% of this group would be a lot more likely to stay and 40% would be a little more likely, with just 35% who say the Stay NJ program would have no impact on their decision.

“Hypotheticals in polling have to be taken with a grain of salt. However, these results suggest that the Stay NJ program will have at least some success meeting its goal of retaining a good number of senior homeowners who would otherwise leave the state. It’s worth noting that it will also have an impact on homeowners at the lower end of the income scale who don’t plan to leave because it is simply not an option for them,” said Murray.

In other poll findings, Monmouth’s exclusive Garden State Quality of Life Index score currently stands at +24, which is similar to ratings from 2023 (+23 in August and +24 in January), but slightly lower than the +27 result in April 2022. 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.

Garden State Quality of Life index score. +24 for total NJ March 2024. Dates in this table go back to December 2010.
Garden State Quality of Life index score. Dates in this table go back to December 2010.

The index experienced some off-setting partisan shifts last summer that have returned to earlier levels. Specifically, Democrats (+40) remain most optimistic about New Jersey’s quality of life when compared with independents (+16) and Republicans (+14). Regionally, the Central Hills (+35) and the Northern Shore (+35) register the highest index ratings while the Urban Core region (+14) is the lowest. The other regions –  Route 1 (+25), Garden Core (+23), Delaware Valley (+20) and Northeast (+19) – fall in between these scores.

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.

Examining individual components of the index finds that more than 6 in 10 New Jerseyans say the state is either an excellent (18%) or good (44%) place to live, while 26% say it is only fair and 11% rate the state as poor. The current positive rating of 62% is similar to recent poll results (62% in August 2023, 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.

Turning to more local indicators, 75% of residents currently rate their own town or city as an excellent or good place to live. This is up from 70% in August, but similar to prior readings (between 73% and 77% from May 2021 to January 2023). New Jerseyans’ ratings for environmental quality in their local area – currently at 75% positive – have been stable since 2021. Local schools earn a 62% positive rating, which is up from 56% in August but within the 60% to 64% range recorded from May 2021 to January 2023. The percentage of state residents who currently feel very safe in their own neighborhoods at night stands at 58%. This is identical to the 58% rating in August, but is lower than prior readings from 2021 through the beginning of 2023 when it ranged between 64% and 67%.

Another poll finding that is worth mentioning is an emerging issue in Monmouth’s top-of-mind issue question. The third most frequently mentioned issue on the list of state residents’ most important issues, after property taxes and the economy, is illegal immigration (mentioned by 17%).  In past polling, this issue has generally hovered only in the low single digits as a state-based concern, with prior high marks of 7% in 2018 and 2019. Unlike taxes and cost of living, the present level of concern with illegal immigration is largely partisan. One-third (33%) of Republicans name it as one of the most important issues facing New Jersey right now, while just 15% of independents and 8% of Democrats mention it as one of their top-of-mind concerns.

“It’s not clear from the poll whether those who are worried about illegal immigration can point to a specific impact on the state over the past year or two. The rise of illegal immigration as a specifically New Jersey issue seems to reflect just how much national political conflicts are influencing what we see as local concerns right now,” said Murray.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from February 29 to  March 4, 2024 with 801 New Jersey adults. The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percentage points for the full sample. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

QUESTIONS AND RESULTS                                                                

(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)        

1.Overall, how would you rate New Jersey as a placetolive – excellent, good, only fair, or poor?

ExcellentGoodOnly FairPoor(VOL) Don’t
March 202462%18%44%26%11%1%(801)
August 202362%20%42%25%12%0%(814)
January 202363%18%45%25%12%0%(809)
April 202264%19%45%22%13%1%(802)
May 202159%16%43%27%14%0%(706)
April 202068%24%44%23%7%1%(704)
September 201961%15%46%26%12%1%(713)
February 201950%11%39%32%17%1%(604)
April 201854%15%39%29%17%1%(703)
July 201759%15%44%28%13%0%(800)
May 201662%16%46%28%10%0%(806)
July 201555%12%43%30%15%0%(503)
May 201563%13%50%27%10%1%(500)
February 201563%15%48%25%11%1%(805)
September 201461%13%48%25%13%1%(802)
June 201462%15%47%26%11%0%(800)
April 201464%15%49%26%10%0%(803)
February 201463%15%48%26%11%0%(803)
December 201365%20%45%26%9%0%(802)
September 201365%19%46%25%10%1%(783)
April 201361%15%46%27%11%0%(806)
February 201368%18%50%24%7%1%(803)
December 201272%20%52%21%5%1%(816)
September 201265%15%50%23%11%0%(805)
July 201269%17%52%23%8%0%(803)
April 201270%20%50%23%7%0%(804)
February 201262%15%47%26%11%1%(803)
October 201167%15%52%24%8%0%(817)
August 201157%14%43%31%11%1%(802)
May 201159%14%45%29%11%0%(807)
December 201063%17%46%26%10%1%(2864)
October 200763%17%46%25%12%1%(1001)
August 200468%22%46%21%10%1%(800)
May 200372%20%52%23%5%0%(1002)
April 200176%23%53%19%4%1%(802)
March 200076%25%51%17%6%0%(800)
May 199976%22%54%19%5%0%(800)
February 199471%18%53%22%7%0%(801)
March 199068%21%47%25%6%1%(800)
February 198878%27%51%17%4%1%(800)
February 198784%31%53%11%4%0%(800)
May 198581%29%52%14%3%1%(500)
October 198480%29%51%15%4%1%(1000)
January 198166%16%50%26%7%1%(1003)
July 198068%18%50%23%7%2%(1005)

[Q2-13 previously released.]

14.In your opinion, what are the most important one or two issues facing the state of New Jersey right now? [LIST WAS NOT READ. IF “TAXES” MENTIONED, INTERVIEWER ASKED FOR SPECIFIC TYPE.] [Note: Results add to more than 100% because multiple responses were accepted.]

Property taxes39%32%45%45%48%25%31%42%45%
Income tax7%9%9%9%8%7%6%8%7%
Sales tax5%7%6%8%7%2%3%4%4%
Other tax, general taxes9%4%8%8%5%12%6%3%5%
Economy, cost of living24%15%16%14%10%10%19%19%27%
State budget, govt. spending3%7%6%7%8%4%5%8%18%
Education, public schools10%10%9%16%14%21%10%20%12%
Higher education1%1%1%3%3%3%2%3%n/a
Transportation, infrastructure9%7%10%14%10%2%3%2%1%
Health insurance, care4%6%9%6%10%11%8%5%18%
Crime, guns, drugs10%6%8%12%9%6%4%5%2%
Public pensions & benefits1%1%1%3%5%2%2%2%n/a
Illegal immigration17%4%7%7%3%1%1%1%2%
Auto insurance1%0%0%1%3%0%1%1%n/a
Marijuana legalization1%1%7%5%2%n/an/an/an/a
Opioid crisis, drug addiction0%0%2%4%2%n/an/an/an/a
Race, equity, police reform1%2%n/an/an/an/an/an/an/a
Abortion, reproductive rights3%n/an/an/an/an/an/an/an/a
Nothing/no answer10%7%4%4%3%4%4%4%3%
* Registered voters
**July 2009 question for registered voters only: was “In your opinion, what are the most important one or two issues that the candidates for governor should talk about?”  
+ “Other” includes Superstorm Sandy recovery in 2012 (23%) and 2013 (8%), and the Covid pandemic in 2021 (41%).

[Q15-23 previously released.]

24.How would you rate your town or city as a placetolive –excellent, good, only fair, or poor?

ExcellentGoodOnly FairPoor(VOL) Don’t
March 202475%33%42%17%7%0%(801)
August 202370%28%42%22%7%0%(814)
January 202377%34%43%18%5%0%(809)
April 202273%32%41%20%7%0%(802)
May 202176%33%43%19%5%0%(706)
April 202079%39%40%16%5%0%(704)
September 201972%32%40%20%7%0%(713)
February 201967%30%37%21%11%0%(604)
April 201871%30%41%20%9%0%(703)
July 201777%37%40%16%7%0%(800)
July 201571%29%42%19%10%0%(503)
February 201572%29%43%21%7%0%(805)
September 201469%24%45%22%10%0%(802)
April 201471%27%44%20%9%0%(803)
February 201470%31%39%23%7%0%(803)
December 201370%29%41%21%8%1%(802)
September 201372%32%40%18%9%1%(783)
April 201367%29%38%25%8%0%(806)
February 201373%30%43%20%7%0%(803)
December 201274%32%42%17%9%0%(816)
September 201272%33%39%19%9%0%(805)
July 201274%32%42%18%7%1%(803)
April 201276%34%42%17%7%0%(804)
February 201274%33%41%21%5%0%(803)
October 201173%26%47%20%8%0%(817)
May 201173%33%40%20%7%0%(807)
December 201073%27%46%20%8%0%(2864)
May 200374%29%45%19%7%0%(1002)
April 200173%28%45%21%6%0%(802)
May 199570%30%40%21%8%0%(802)
June 199472%31%41%19%9%0%(801)
September 198872%26%46%18%9%1%(500)
October 198471%30%41%21%7%1%(999)
June 198067%23%44%24%9%0%(1005)
May 197766%25%41%24%10%0%(1005)


25.How would you rate the quality of the environment in the area where you live – excellent, good, only fair, or poor?

ExcellentGoodOnly FairPoor(VOL) Don’t
March 202475%30%45%18%7%0%(801)
August 202375%28%47%19%5%1%(814)
January 202378%30%48%17%5%1%(809)
April 202276%31%45%17%7%0%(802)
May 202176%32%44%18%6%0%(706)
April 202081%36%45%15%4%0%(704)
September 201972%31%41%22%6%1%(713)
February 201971%27%44%21%8%0%(604)
April 201873%29%44%20%6%1%(703)
July 201776%37%39%14%8%1%(800)
July 201571%27%44%20%9%0%(503)
February 201572%27%45%23%4%0%(805)
September 201472%24%48%21%5%1%(802)
April 201476%27%49%18%6%0%(803)
February 201473%29%44%21%6%0%(803)
December 201369%27%42%24%7%0%(802)
September 201375%30%45%18%7%1%(783)
April 201370%27%43%22%7%0%(806)
February 201371%26%45%24%4%2%(803)
December 201273%25%48%20%7%1%(816)
September 201272%30%42%20%7%0%(805)
July 201274%30%44%19%7%1%(803)
April 201275%30%45%18%6%1%(804)
February 201277%29%48%17%5%0%(803)
October 201172%25%47%19%9%0%(817)
August 201179%31%48%16%5%0%(802)
May 201179%33%46%15%6%0%(807)
December 201066%14%52%25%9%0%(2864)
April 200170%27%43%22%7%1%(402)
September 198853%10%43%31%15%1%(500)

26.How would you rate the job your local schools are doing – excellent, good, only fair, or poor?

ExcellentGoodOnly FairPoor(VOL) Don’t
March 202462%19%43%21%12%5%(801)
August 202356%22%34%23%15%6%(814)
January 202360%19%41%22%11%6%(809)
April 202263%24%39%16%11%10%(802)
May 202164%24%40%18%8%10%(706)
April 202073%33%40%16%4%7%(704)
September 201960%26%34%23%9%9%(713)
February 201959%19%40%22%10%9%(604)
April 201860%24%36%23%10%7%(703)
July 201765%26%39%20%10%6%(800)
July 201560%27%33%22%9%8%(503)
February 201561%21%40%24%8%7%(805)
September 201460%21%39%24%9%7%(802)
April 201463%24%39%22%9%6%(803)
February 201461%22%39%22%10%7%(803)
December 201360%20%40%23%12%5%(802)
September 201362%24%38%21%7%9%(783)
April 201359%21%38%27%9%5%(806)
February 201364%24%40%20%7%9%(803)
December 201261%21%40%23%7%9%(816)
September 201261%27%34%21%10%8%(805)
July 201261%22%39%20%11%8%(803)
April 201263%23%40%21%7%8%(804)
February 201268%26%42%16%8%8%(803)
October 201160%21%39%20%13%7%(817)
August 201163%19%44%26%6%5%(802)
May 201163%24%39%22%10%6%(807)
December 201064%24%40%23%8%5%(2864)
August 200461%24%37%17%12%9%(800)
April 200164%21%43%21%6%9%(802)
September 199962%18%44%21%9%8%(802)
September 199862%20%42%23%9%7%(804)
February 199660%20%40%20%11%9%(804)
September 199352%16%36%29%14%5%(801)
January 199253%15%38%26%15%5%(800)
October 198760%14%46%23%6%11%(500)
October 198655%15%40%26%10%9%(800)
October 198359%16%43%23%10%8%(802)
May 197852%12%40%25%12%11%(1003)

27.How safe do you feel in your neighborhood at night – very safe, somewhat safe, or not at all safe?

Trend*:Very safeSomewhat
Not at all
(VOL) Don’t
March 202458%36%5%0%(801)
August 202358%36%5%0%(814)
January 202364%32%4%1%(809)
April 202265%29%5%0%(802)
May 202167%31%2%0%(706)
April 202074%22%3%1%(704)
September 201968%27%5%0%(713)
February 201964%29%7%0%(604)
April 201865%29%5%0%(703)
July 201771%22%6%0%(800)
July 201567%27%6%0%(503)
February 201562%33%4%0%(805)
September 201458%36%6%0%(802)
April 201466%30%4%1%(803)
February 201467%28%6%0%(803)
December 201360%33%7%0%(802)
September 201365%27%7%1%(783)
April 201366%28%6%0%(806)
February 201363%30%6%1%(803)
December 201264%29%6%1%(816)
September 201265%25%6%0%(805)
July 201260%32%7%1%(803)
April 201264%31%5%1%(804)
February 201262%32%5%0%(803)
October 201162%31%7%0%(817)
August 201163%31%6%0%(802)
May 201168%27%5%0%(807)
December 201059%35%6%0%(2864)
February 199342%44%13%0%(801)
October 198751%36%11%2%(499)
October 198453%36%9%2%(500)
May 198143%43%13%1%(497)

28.As things stand now, would you like to move out of New Jersey at some point or would you like to stay here for the rest of your life?

Move out of New Jersey 48%59%50%53%50%49%
Stay in New Jersey 48%38%45%43%43%44%
(VOL) Don’t know3%3%5%4%7%7%

[Question 29 was asked of those who want to move out of New Jersey: n=398, moe=+/-6.0%.]

29.How much of a factor is New Jersey’s cost of living in your desire to move out of the state – is it the most important factor, one of several top factors, or not one of the top factors?

Most important factor43%
One of several top factors52%
Not one of the top factors5%

30.Regardless of whether you want to leave New Jersey, how likely is it that you will actually move out of the state at some point in your life – very, somewhat, not too, or not all likely?

Very likely28%36%26%28%
Somewhat likely 27%30%32%32%
Not too likely 18%17%17%16%
Not all likely 26%17%23%23%
(VOL) Don’t know1%1%2%1%

[Question 31 was asked of those who are likely to move out of New Jersey: n=461, moe=+/-5.6%.]

31.When will you probably move – before you retire or after you retire, or are you already retired?

Before retire 36%50%
After retire40%40%
Already retired 23%7%*
(VOL) Don’t know1%4%
  *In 2014, “already retired” was a voluntary response.

32.How concerned are you about not having enough money for retirement – very concerned, somewhat concerned, or not at all concerned?

Very concerned40%34%42%
Somewhat concerned33%36%33%
Not at all concerned27%28%23%
(VOL) Don’t know0%2%1%

33.The state has proposed a new program called Stay N.J. that will cut property taxes in half for nearly all senior citizen homeowners. How much have you heard about this program – a lot, a little, or nothing at all?

A lot7%
A little29%
Nothing at all64%
(VOL) Don’t know0%

34.If this program is implemented, will you be a lot more likely to stay in New Jersey, a little more likely, or will it have no impact on your decision whether to stay or move out of the state?

A lot more likely27%
A little more likely26%
No impact45%
(VOL) Don’t know3%

35.Should this program be available to all senior homeowners regardless of income, or should there be an income cap? [If INCOME CAP]: Should the income cap for this credit be $150,000, $250,000, $500,000, or $750,000?

$150,000 cap13%
$250,000 cap17%
$500,000 cap11%
$750,000 cap4%
All senior homeowners50%
(VOL) Don’t know5%

[Q36-42 held for future release.]

* Note:  All trend results prior to 2005 come from Rutgers University’s Eagleton Poll.


The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from February 29 to March 4, 2024 with a probability-based random sample of 801 New Jersey adults age 18 and older. Interviews were conducted in English, and included 259 live landline telephone interviews, 375 live cell phone interviews, and 167 online surveys via a cell phone text invitation. Telephone numbers were selected through a mix of random digit dialing and list-based sampling. Landline respondents were selected with a modified Troldahl-Carter youngest adult household screen. Interviewing services were provided by Braun Research, with sample obtained from Dynata (RDD, n= 657) and Aristotle (list, n= 144). Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. The full sample is weighted for region, age, education, gender and race based on US Census information (ACS 2021 one-year survey. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points adjusted for sample design effects (1.49). Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below). 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.

Standard Region (by county):

North – Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Passaic, Sussex, Union, Warren

Central – Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Somerset

South – Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Ocean, Salem

Expanded Region (by county):  Northeast (Bergen, Passaic), Urban Core (Essex, Hudson), Route 1 Corridor (Mercer, Middlesex, Union), Central Hills (Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset), Northern Shore (Monmouth, Ocean), Delaware Valley (Burlington, Camden, Gloucester), Garden Core (Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, Salem, Sussex, Warren).

Demographics (weighted)

Party (self-reported): 26% Republican, 37% Independent, 37% Democrat

Sex: 49% male, 51% female, 1% other

Age: 28% 18-34, 33% 35-54, 39% 55+

Race: 55% White, 13% Black, 19% Hispanic, 13% Asian/other

Education: 34% high school or less, 25% some college, 23% 4 year degree, 18% graduate degree

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