Close Close

Pandemic Spurs Positive Quality of Life Views

New Jersey

Hometown, environment, schools, safety ratings all hit high marks

West Long Branch, NJ – New Jerseyans’ opinion of the quality of life in their home state stands at a record high just one year after hitting an all-time low. Currently, more than 2 in 3 give positive marks to the Garden State as a place to live. The Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll finds increases in many aspects of local life, including record high ratings for hometowns, schools, safety, and environmental quality. This increase in positive sentiment has occurred in nearly all parts of New Jersey except for the most rural corners of the state.

Monmouth’s exclusive Garden State Quality of Life Index score now stands at +37, which is up significantly from +24 in September 2019. The prior high for this index was +31 in April 2012 and the prior low was +13 in February 2019.

“These positive results reflect a prevailing sense of goodwill as Garden State residents pull together in the current pandemic. Whether this can be maintained once the crisis is over is another question,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

The quality of life index score is at all-time or near all-time high levels in every region of the state except one. The highest scores come from the affluent Central Hills region (Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset) at +49; the Northern Shore (Monmouth, Ocean) at +46; the Northeast region (Bergen, Passaic) at +41; and the Route 1 Corridor (Mercer, Middlesex, Union) at +40. The Delaware Valley (Burlington, Camden, Gloucester) at +33 and the Urban Core (Essex, Hudson) at +30 are somewhat lower but still record high levels. On the other hand, the state’s Garden Core (comprised of counties in the northwestern and southernmost parts of the state) registers a +21 quality of life index score. This number is only a few points higher than it was in September (+17) and is lower than the prior high of +31 in December 2012.

“The most rural parts of New Jersey don’t seem to be experiencing the same sense of camaraderie as the rest of the state,” said Murray.

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.

Just over two-thirds of New Jersey residents say the state is either an excellent (24%) or good (44%) place to live, while 23% say it is only fair and 7% rate the state as poor. The current positive rating of 68% is the highest level recorded in more than seven years. Positive ratings stood at 72% in December 2012 and 68% in February 2013, in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. The all-time high mark for the state rating was 84% positive in February 1987. The record low was 50% recorded in February of last year, but it had improved to 61% in September. Over the past decade, the state rating has generally been in the low- to mid-60s.











April 2020+37+34+41+34+38+40+43+26+29+37+44
September 2019+24+21+26+21+20+32+31+13+18+20+33
February 2019+13+14+12+10+11+18+17+4+2+14+20
April 2018+18+16+20+22+14+20+22+5+8+16+27
July 2017+25+25+24+15+26+30+32+6+8+23+41
July 2015+18+18+18+25+11+20+24+5n/an/an/a
February 2015+23+21+26+26+18+28+29+10+13+30+31
September 2014+18+19+17+12+20+20+23+5+13+15+30
April 2014+25+24+25+31+20+25+27+16+17+24+33
February 2014+23+28+18+23+21+26+27+11+8+23+35
December 2013+24+25+23+24+21+27+29+10+10+24+35
September 2013+26+26+26+27+23+30+33+10+17+25+42
April 2013+21+19+24+19+19+27+29+3+12+19+35
February 2013+29+28+30+30+27+31+36+12+20+30+36
December 2012+30+31+29+30+30+30+36+14+17+33+38
September 2012+24+28+20+16+21+32+30+5+10+23+37
July 2012+27+26+29+21+31+30+32+16+16+31+37
April 2012+31+33+28+25+30+37+36+19+24+28+42
February 2012+25+20+30+25+24+26+29+13+17+23+38
October 2011+24+24+24+23+21+29+31+7+15+25+31
August 2011+22+25+19+27+19+21+26+9+9+22+32
May 2011+23+24+22+23+22+23+26+14+15+22+32
December 2010+21+20+23+23+20+23+26+13+15+21+31

Urban CoreRoute 1 CorridorCentral HillsNorthern ShoreDelaware ValleyGarden Core
Stable TownGrowing Suburb
April 2020+41+30+40+49+46+33+21+18+41+45
September 2019+20+10+23+42+32+26+17+6+30+30
February 2019+21-1+16+27+21-3+9-1+15+19
April 2018+24+8+18+34+18+14+11+2+23+24
July 2017+25+18+34+33+35+22+13+7+31+29
July 2015+21+4+22+35+22+17+10-2+28+23
February 2015+31+13+24+38+31+11+19+11+30+27
September 2014+23+8+12+42+27+18+4+10+22+19
April 2014+24+10+22+43+29+25+23+4+26+33
February 2014+27+16+20+37+30+14+16+6+28+28
December 2013+31+15+26+40+25+14+17+5+29+30
September 2013+27+8+21+52+33+27+19+1+34+32
April 2013+31+4+19+38+22+21+21-3+30+27
February 2013+31+17+35+37+36+25+23+11+33+36
December 2012+36+18+26+47+40+21+31+9+37+37
September 2012+29+14+17+45+33+26+13-1+27+31
July 2012+37+12+30+37+34+22+18+8+34+34
April 2012+38+26+27+44+34+22+28+20+35+36
February 2012+33+17+27+35+29+19+22+11+31+29
October 2011+31+6+22+45+35+18+23-1+31+34
August 2011+24+16+21+38+27+26+6+4+29+25
May 2011+28+17+16+41+29+22+20+6+29+28
December 2010+26+15+22+38+23+14+17+12+23+27

The shift in the state rating since last fall has been pretty much across the board demographically. Positive reviews of the Garden State as a place to live have increased among both men (64%, from 57% in September) and women (72%, from 66%). It has increased among white residents (72%, from 63%) more than among New Jerseyans of color (64%, from 62%). By age, the state rating has improved the most among those 35 to 54 years old (68%, from 56%) and less dramatically for those 18 to 34 years old (72%, from 67%) and 55 and older (66%, from 63%). The state rating has also improved among those earning over $100,000 a year (74%, from 64%) and between $50,000 and $100,000 (66%, from 57%), but it has not really moved among those earning less than $50,000 (65%, from 64%).

Among the local metrics that contribute to the index, the school rating has seen the biggest jump in positive opinion. Ratings for the job local schools are doing stand at 33% excellent, 40% good, 16% fair, and 4% poor. The combined 73% positive rating marks an all-time high for this question in New Jersey polling going back to 1978. The prior high was 68% in February 2012, although this rating generally hovered in the low 60s throughout the past decade.

“While the delivery of remote instruction may be uneven across districts, New Jersey schools are getting credit for doing the best they can under incredibly difficult circumstances,” said Murray.

Environmental ratings have also improved. The current poll registers ratings for local environmental quality at 81% positive – 36% excellent and 45% good. The prior high marks were 79% positive in polls from both May 2011 and August 2011. Another 15% in the current poll rate the local environment as only fair and 4% say it is poor.

Nearly 8 in 10 New Jerseyans rate their own town or city as an excellent (39%) or good (40%) place to live, with 16% saying it is only fair and 5% rating it as poor. The current 79% positive hometown rating surpasses the prior high of 76% recorded in both April 2012 and August 2011.

The percentage of Garden State residents who currently feel very safe in their own neighborhoods at night has ticked up to 74%. The prior high was 71% in July 2017. Another 22% say they feel somewhat safe and 3% do not feel safe at all in their neighborhoods at night.

“These local ratings have really driven Monmouth’s overall quality of life index into record territory. New Jerseyans are feeling very good about their neighbors right now,” said Murray.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from April 16 to 19, 2020 with 704 New Jersey adults.  The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percentage points.  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 place to live excellent, good, only fair, or poor?




Only Fair

(VOL) Don’t

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)

[Q2-31 previously released.]

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




Only Fair

(VOL) Don’t

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)
August 201176%28%48%18%6%0%(802)
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)


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




Only Fair

(VOL) Don’t

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)

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




Only Fair

(VOL) Don’t

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)

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

Very safe
Not at
all safe
(VOL) Don’t

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)

* 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 April 16 to 19, 2020 with a random sample of 704 New Jersey adults age 18 and older, in English. This includes 316 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 388 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone. Telephone numbers were selected through random digit dialing and landline respondents were selected with a modified Troldahl-Carter youngest adult household screen. 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 2018 one-year survey). Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and Dynata (RDD sample). 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 3.7 percentage points (unadjusted for sample design). 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.

Region in this report 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).

25% Republican
39% Independent
36% Democrat
48% Male
52% Female
28% 18-34
34% 35-54
37% 55+
58% White
13% Black
18% Hispanic
11% Asian/Other
62% No degree
38% 4 year degree

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