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Monmouth University Polling Institute

Big Drop in Garden State Quality of Life

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sandy-hit regions show largest decline

In its regular tracking of residents' satisfaction with life in New Jersey, the Monmouth University Poll finds the current Garden State Quality of Life Index stands at +21.  This is down significantly from other post-Superstorm Sandy readings, including +29 in February and +30 in December.  In fact, the current score matches the prior low from December 2010, when Monmouth first introduced the index.

A major factor in the index score is residents' overall rating of the state as a place to live.  Currently, more than 6-in-10 say New Jersey is either an excellent (15%) or good (46%) place to call home, compared to nearly 4-in-10 who rate it as only fair (27%) or poor (11%).  This 61% positive rating is down by 7 points from the February poll and by 11 points from a decade-high 72% recorded in December just after Superstorm Sandy hit the state.

The decline in state ratings is accompanied by a drop in local evaluations.  Specifically, 67% of New Jerseyans currently rate their town or city positively, down from 73% in February.  This marks the lowest result for hometown evaluations in more than 30 years.  The last time fewer than 7-in-10 New Jersey residents viewed their hometown positively was in 1980, when the number was also 67%.

Another area that shows a downturn in residents' perceptions is the local school rating.  Currently, 59% of New Jerseyans give their local schools a thumbs up, down 5 points since February.  On the other hand, ratings of local environmental quality stayed stable at 70% positive and views of neighborhood safety actually went up by 3 points to 66% positive.

"The feelings of goodwill that permeated the state after Sandy have disappeared, even wiping out positive gains made prior to the storm.  New Jerseyans are once again looking at the state's quality of life with a more critical eye," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

The Garden State Quality of Life Index score declined for nearly every demographic group when compared to February's results, with the exception of those earning over $100,000 a year for whom it remained fairly steady at +35.  Regionally, the index score registered double digit drops in Urban Core counties (+4), the Route 1 Corridor (+19), and the Northern Shore (+22).  The index stayed relatively more stable in areas not as affected by Sandy, including the Central Hills (+38), the Northeast (+31), the Garden Core counties (+21), and the Delaware Valley (+21).  In fact, the Delaware Valley region, which suffered the least impact from Sandy, registered the most stable Quality of Life ratings for the period six months before Sandy hit to six months after, ranging narrowly from +21 to +26 during that time.

The Garden State Quality of Life Index was created by the Monmouth University Polling Institute 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.

The latest Monmouth University Poll  was conducted by telephone with 806 New Jersey adults from April 11 to April 14, 2013.  This sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, New Jersey.

The questions referred to in this release are as follows:

1.     Overall, how would you rate New Jersey as a place to live excellent, good, only fair, or poor?

2.     How would you rate your town or city as a place to live excellent, good, only fair, or poor?


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

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

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


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


The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from April 11 to 14, 2013 with a statewide random sample of 806 adult residents, including 606 contacted on a landline telephone and 200 on a cell phone.  Live interviewing services were provided by Braun Research, Inc. and the telephone sample was obtained from Survey Sampling International.  Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey questionnaire design, data weighting and analysis.  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.

Region is defined by county boundaries:  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), and Garden Core (Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, Salem, Sussex, Warren).

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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- Monmouth University Polling Institute