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Monmouth University Polling Institute

Downtown Jersey

Monday, March 26, 2007

New Jerseyans name Newark, Red Bank and Hoboken among their favorite downtown areas

When you're alone and life is making you lonely you can always go…to Newark, Red Bank, Hoboken, Atlantic City, Ridgewood and more.  If you want a nice downtown to visit, New Jersey's got it.  Despite the rate of suburban sprawl in the Garden State, there's a pleasant downtown area within easy reach of nearly every resident according to the Monmouth University/New Jersey Monthly Poll .

New Jersey is truly a mix of town and suburb.  Just under half of New Jersey residents (45%) say their hometown has an area they would call a "downtown."  This ranges from 77% in the state's largest cities to only 27% in the rapidly developing areas of the state.  Among those who live in older established towns and suburbs, including the state's remaining rural communities, about half (ranging from 48 to 53%) say that their municipality has a downtown area.  Fully 6-in-10 New Jerseyans who have a downtown area in their backyard say they shop or dine there on a weekly basis.  This includes 33% who do so several times a week and 27% who visit their downtown about once a week.

Among all New Jerseyans, 4-in-10 say they visit any downtown in the state at least weekly.  This includes 16% who shop or dine in a Garden State downtown every few days and 25% who do so once a week.  Another 30% are monthly downtown visitors and 21% are occasional visitors.  Only 8% of New Jersey adults say they never shop or dine at a downtown area in the state.

So where do New Jerseyans go for a "downtown" experience in their home state?  The poll asked residents to name their favorite downtown and came up with a list of 119 towns located in every corner of the state.  In fact, the top 11 New Jersey downtowns are spread across 9 counties.  The top favorites are Newark (6%), Red Bank (6%), Hoboken (5%), Atlantic City (4%), Ridgewood (4%), Jersey City (4%), Princeton (3%), Morristown (3%), Westfield (3%), Haddonfield (3%), and Montclair (3%).



Red Bank


Atlantic City


Jersey City






Breaking down the top towns by region indicates that there is a downtown for just about everyone - and everywhere - in the state.  Each region's list of downtowns includes a mix of traditional urban centers, active destinations, and quiet residential communities.  County seats are highly represented in the list of New Jersey's favorite downtowns.



  North Jersey  

  Central Jersey  

  South Jersey  


Newark (15%)

Red Bank (28%)

Atlantic City (27%)


Hoboken (13%)

Princeton (17%)

Haddonfield (17%)


Ridgewood (10%)

New Brunswick (8%)

Camden (9%)


Jersey City (9%)

Somerville (7%)

Cape May (9%)


Morristown (7%)

Metuchen (5%)

Vineland (6%)


Westfield (6%)

Flemington (5%)

Collingswood (4%)


Montclair (6%)

Toms River (4%)

Medford (4%)


Paterson (3%)

Point Pleasant (3%)

Wildwood (3%)


Chester (2%)

Lambertville (3%)

Woodbury (3%)

While the range of top downtowns is diverse, poll results indicate that the appeal of an individual town varies by race and income.  For instance the traditional five "big cities" of Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Elizabeth and Camden taken together are named by 33% of African-American and Hispanic New Jerseyans but only 3% of Caucasian residents.  On the other hand, nearly one-third (31%) of the state's top earners - those making more than $100,000 per year - name one of the 5 bedroom communities of Ridgewood, Princeton, Red Bank, Westfield and Haddonfield as their top downtown.  This compares to just 1-in-10 (10%) of those earning below $50,000 who choose one of these five towns as their favorite downtown area in the state.

"There really does seem to be a downtown for everyone in New Jersey, although not perhaps in the same place," remarked Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.  "Also, the inclusion of places like Atlantic City indicates that New Jerseyans may take the definition of 'downtown' beyond its traditional meaning."

The poll asked downtown visitors to assess what attracts them to a downtown area and found that good dining options and a pleasant atmosphere are more important than having traditional infrastructure.  Specifically, 71% of New Jersey downtown visitors name good restaurants as a very important factor in getting them to visit a downtown area.  A majority also name nice landscaping (59%) and unique, locally-owned shops (54%) as very important qualities for a downtown area to have.  Fewer visitors say that interesting buildings or architecture (38%) and live theaters or nightclubs (28%) are essential elements to creating an attractive downtown area.

Notably, wealthier visitors tend to put a greater premium on locally-owned shops and good dining while younger adults tend to value nightlife more.  However, opinions on the qualities that make a downtown attractive are basically the same for frequent and infrequent visitors alike.

This poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute by telephone with 801 New Jersey adults from February 8-12, 2007.  This sample has a margin of error of ± 3.5 percent.  These poll results are featured in the April 2007 issue of New Jersey Monthly  magazine.

The questions referred to in this release are as follows:

1.      Does the town where you live have an area you would consider to be a downtown, or not really?

2.      How often do you visit your downtown to shop or dine out – a few times a week, about once a week, once a month, less often, or never?

3.      Which New Jersey city or town has your favorite downtown area?

4.      How often do you visit any downtown in New Jersey to shop or dine out – a few times a week, about once a week, once a month, less often, or never?

5.      I’m going to read you some things that may be important to have in a downtown.  For each, please tell me whether you feel it is very, somewhat, or not too important in making a downtown area appealing to you.  [DOWNTOWN VISITORS ONLY]


Results for this poll are based on telephone interviews conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute on Feb. 8-12, 2007 with a statewide random sample of 801 adult residents.  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.

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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