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Monmouth University Polling Institute

State Rating Hits 38 Year Low as Quality of Life Views Ebb

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Property taxes persist as public’s top concern

West Long Branch, NJ – New Jerseyans’ views of their home state quality of life have dropped, due in part by a record low rating for the state as a place to live according to polling going back to 1980. The Monmouth University Poll finds that opinion of local communities has not dropped by as much, which has kept the Garden State Quality of Life Index score from completely tanking. The state issue that aggravates New Jerseyans the most is the highest-in-the-nation property tax burden, which has been at the top of the list of public grievances for the better part of a decade.

Currently, just over half of New Jersey residents say their state is either an excellent (15%) or good (39%) place to call home, while 29% rate it as only fair and 17% as poor. This 54% positive rating is statistically similar to the July 2015 result of 55% and the August 2011 result of 57%. However, it does mark a numerical low point for this metric in state opinion polls going back to 1980.

The top state concern mentioned by New Jerseyans is property taxes. Just under half (45%) name this issue as one of the most important facing the state right now. Those mentioning other taxes amount to 25% combined. Fewer residents mention education (16%), jobs (14%), the economy and cost of living in general (14%), transportation infrastructure (14%), or crime, guns, and drugs (12%) as being among the most pressing concerns facing New Jersey today. Property taxes have been the most common top-of-mind response to this question for at least ten years, with the only exception coming during the economic downturn when this concern shared the top spot with jobs in 2012 and was actually displaced by jobs as the number one issue in 2013.

“Unless you’ve had your head in the sand for the past ten years, you know that New Jersey’s onerous property tax burden is the single most cited reason for what ails the state. Trenton lawmakers have avoided tackling this problem for too long and we now see it eroding satisfaction with life in the Garden State as a whole. Given these results, it’s no surprise that more and more New Jerseyans are choosing to vote with their feet by simply moving out of the state,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Monmouth’s exclusive Garden State Quality of Life Index score now stands at +18, which is down from +25 in July 2017 and matches prior lows of +18 in July 2015 and September 2014. Over the past eight years, this index has ranged from the current low of +18 to a high of +31 (April 2012). Half of the index score comes from residents’ overall rating of the state as a place to live and the remaining half comes from four questions that ask residents to evaluate the quality of life in their local communities.

The quality of life index score took its biggest hit in the central part of the state, going from +35 last year to +18 currently in the Northern Shore (Monmouth, Ocean) and from +34 last year to +18 currently in the Route 1 Corridor (Mercer, Middlesex, Union). The affluent Central Hills area (Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset) retains the highest score at +34 (basically unchanged from +33 last year), while the Urban Core (Essex, Hudson) has the lowest at +8 (down from +18 last year).

“Even though New Jerseyans are starting to sour on the state as whole, views of their local communities remain more positive. This sentiment may help to keep people here for the time being but it doesn’t overcome the more fundamental statewide problems,” said Murray.

Just over 7-in-10 New Jerseyans rate their own town or city as an excellent (30%) or good (41%) place to live, with 20% rating it as only fair and 9% as poor. The current 71% positive rating is down from the numerical high of 77% recorded last year, but it is still in the mid-range of results for this question going back to polling since 1977. The percentage of Garden State residents who currently say they feel very safe in their own neighborhoods at night (65%) is also down from last year’s numerical high of 71%, but remains well above the all-time low of 42% recorded back in 1993.

The current poll registers relatively high ratings for local environmental quality at 73% positive – 29% excellent and 44% good, which is just slightly off last year’s mark of 76%. Ratings for the job local schools are doing stands at 60% positive – 24% excellent and 36% good – which is down from 65% in 2017, but is still within the normal range for this question’s results over the past decade.

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 Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from April 6 to 10, 2018 with 703 New Jersey adults. The results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.7 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 place to live excellent, good, only fair, or poor?
TREND: Excellent/
Good
Excellent Good Only Fair Poor (VOL) Don't know

(n)

April 2018 54% 15% 39% 29% 17% 1% (703)
July 2017 59% 15% 44% 28% 13% 0% (800)
May 2016 62% 16% 46% 28% 10% 0% (806)
July 2015 55% 12% 43% 30% 15% 0% (503)
May 2015 63% 13% 50% 27% 10% 1% (500)
February 2015 63% 15% 48% 25% 11% 1% (805)
September  2014 61% 13% 48% 25% 13% 1% (802)
June 2014 62% 15% 47% 26% 11% 0% (800)
April 2014 64% 15% 49% 26% 10% 0% (803)
February 2014 63% 15% 48% 26% 11% 0% (803)
December 2013 65% 20% 45% 26% 9% 0% (802)
September 2013 65% 19% 46% 25% 10% 1% (783)
April 2013 61% 15% 46% 27% 11% 0% (806)
February 2013 68% 18% 50% 24% 7% 1% (803)
December 2012 72% 20% 52% 21% 5% 1% (816)
September 2012 65% 15% 50% 23% 11% 0% (805)
July 2012 69% 17% 52% 23% 8% 0% (803)
April 2012 70% 20% 50% 23% 7% 0% (804)
February 2012 62% 15% 47% 26% 11% 1% (803)
October 2011 67% 15% 52% 24% 8% 0% (817)
August 2011 57% 14% 43% 31% 11% 1% (802)
May 2011 59% 14% 45% 29% 11% 0% (807)
December 2010 63% 17% 46% 26% 10% 1% (2864)
October 2007 63% 17% 46% 25% 12% 1% (1001)
August 2004 68% 22% 46% 21% 10% 1% (800)
May 2003 72% 20% 52% 23% 5% 0% (1002)
April 2001 76% 23% 53% 19% 4% 1% (802)
March 2000 76% 25% 51% 17% 6% 0% (800)
May 1999 76% 22% 54% 19% 5% 0% (800)
February 1994 71% 18% 53% 22% 7% 0% (801)
March 1990 68% 21% 47% 25% 6% 1% (800)
February 1988 78% 27% 51% 17% 4% 1% (800)
February 1987 84% 31% 53% 11% 4% 0% (800)
May 1985 81% 29% 52% 14% 3% 1% (500)
October 1984 80% 29% 51% 15% 4% 1% (1000)
January 1981 66% 16% 50% 26% 7% 1% (1003)
July 1980 68% 18% 50% 23% 7% 2% (1005)

 

[Q2-6 previously released.]

 

  1. 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 ASKS FOR SPECIFIC TYPE.]
    [Note: Results add to more than 100% because multiple responses were accepted.]
TREND:  April
2018
July
2017
Dec.
2013
Dec.
2012
Feb.
2012
July
2009*
Property taxes 45% 48% 25% 31% 42% 45%
Income tax 9% 8% 7% 6% 8% 7%
Sales tax 8% 7% 2% 3% 4% 4%
Other tax, general taxes 8% 5% 12% 6% 3% 5%
Jobs 14% 14% 35% 30% 42% 18%
Economy, cost of living 14% 10% 10% 19% 19% 27%
State budget, govt. spending 7% 8% 4% 5% 8% 18%
Education/public schools 16% 14% 21% 10% 20% 12%
Higher education 3% 3% 3% 2% 3%

n/a

Transportation, infrastructure 14% 10% 2% 3% 2% 1%
Environment 4% 4% 2% 2% 1% 2%
Health insurance, care 6% 10% 11% 8% 5% 18%
Crime, guns, drugs 12% 9% 6% 4% 5% 2%
Public pensions/benefits 3% 5% 2% 2% 2%

n/a

Housing 5% 6% 3% 2% 1%

n/a

Illegal immigration 7% 3% 1% 1% 1% 2%
Auto insurance 1% 3% 0% 1% 1%

n/a

Superstorm Sandy recovery

n/a

n/a

8% 23%

n/a

n/a

Legalize marijuana 5% 2%

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

Opioid crisis 4% 2%

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

Other 8% 12% 9% 4% 8% 11%
Nothing/no answer 4% 3% 4% 4% 4% 3%
   (n) (703) (800) (802) (816) (803) (792)

[*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?”]

[Q8-31 previously released.]

 

  1. How would you rate your town or city as a place to live excellent, good, only fair, or poor?
TREND: Excellent/
Good
Excellent Good Only Fair Poor (VOL)
Don’t know

(n)

April 2018 71% 30% 41% 20% 9% 0% (703)
July 2017 77% 37% 40% 16% 7% 0% (800)
July 2015 71% 29% 42% 19% 10% 0% (503)
February 2015 72% 29% 43% 21% 7% 0% (805)
September 2014 69% 24% 45% 22% 10% 0% (802)
April 2014 71% 27% 44% 20% 9% 0% (803)
February 2014 70% 31% 39% 23% 7% 0% (803)
December 2013 70% 29% 41% 21% 8% 1% (802)
September 2013 72% 32% 40% 18% 9% 1% (783)
April 2013 67% 29% 38% 25% 8% 0% (806)
February 2013 73% 30% 43% 20% 7% 0% (803)
December 2012 74% 32% 42% 17% 9% 0% (816)
September 2012 72% 33% 39% 19% 9% 0% (805)
July 2012 74% 32% 42% 18% 7% 1% (803)
April 2012 76% 34% 42% 17% 7% 0% (804)
February 2012 74% 33% 41% 21% 5% 0% (803)
October 2011 73% 26% 47% 20% 8% 0% (817)
August 2011 76% 28% 48% 18% 6% 0% (802)
May 2011 73% 33% 40% 20% 7% 0% (807)
December 2010 73% 27% 46% 20% 8% 0% (2864)
May 2003 74% 29% 45% 19% 7% 0% (1002)
April 2001 73% 28% 45% 21% 6% 0% (802)
May 1995 70% 30% 40% 21% 8% 0% (802)
June 1994 72% 31% 41% 19% 9% 0% (801)
September 1988 72% 26% 46% 18% 9% 1% (500)
October 1984 71% 30% 41% 21% 7% 1% (999)
June 1980 67% 23% 44% 24% 9% 0% (1005)
May 1977 66% 25% 41% 24% 10% 0% (1005)

 

[QUESTIONS 33, 34 AND 35 WERE ROTATED]

  1. How would you rate the quality of the environment in the area where you live – excellent, good, only fair, or poor?
TREND: Excellent/
Good
Excellent Good Only Fair Poor (VOL)
Don’t know

(n)

April 2018 73% 29% 44% 20% 6% 1% (703)
July 2017 76% 37% 39% 14% 8% 1% (800)
July 2015 71% 27% 44% 20% 9% 0% (503)
February 2015 72% 27% 45% 23% 4% 0% (805)
September 2014 72% 24% 48% 21% 5% 1% (802)
April 2014 76% 27% 49% 18% 6% 0% (803)
February 2014 73% 29% 44% 21% 6% 0% (803)
December 2013 69% 27% 42% 24% 7% 0% (802)
September 2013 75% 30% 45% 18% 7% 1% (783)
April 2013 70% 27% 43% 22% 7% 0% (806)
February 2013 71% 26% 45% 24% 4% 2% (803)
December 2012 73% 25% 48% 20% 7% 1% (816)
September 2012 72% 30% 42% 20% 7% 0% (805)
July 2012 74% 30% 44% 19% 7% 1% (803)
April 2012 75% 30% 45% 18% 6% 1% (804)
February 2012 77% 29% 48% 17% 5% 0% (803)
October 2011 72% 25% 47% 19% 9% 0% (817)
August 2011 79% 31% 48% 16% 5% 0% (802)
May 2011 79% 33% 46% 15% 6% 0% (807)
December 2010 66% 14% 52% 25% 9% 0% (2864)
April 2001 70% 27% 43% 22% 7% 1% (402)
September 1988 53% 10% 43% 31% 15% 1% (500)

 

  1. How would you rate the job your local schools are doing – excellent, good, only fair, or poor?
TREND: Excellent/
Good
Excellent Good Only Fair Poor (VOL)
Don’t know

(n)

April 2018 60% 24% 36% 23% 10% 7% (703)
July 2017 65% 26% 39% 20% 10% 6% (800)
July 2015 60% 27% 33% 22% 9% 8% (503)
February 2015 61% 21% 40% 24% 8% 7% (805)
September 2014 60% 21% 39% 24% 9% 7% (802)
April 2014 63% 24% 39% 22% 9% 6% (803)
February 2014 61% 22% 39% 22% 10% 7% (803)
December 2013 60% 20% 40% 23% 12% 5% (802)
September 2013 62% 24% 38% 21% 7% 9% (783)
April 2013 59% 21% 38% 27% 9% 5% (806)
February 2013 64% 24% 40% 20% 7% 9% (803)
December 2012 61% 21% 40% 23% 7% 9% (816)
September 2012 61% 27% 34% 21% 10% 8% (805)
July 2012 61% 22% 39% 20% 11% 8% (803)
April 2012 63% 23% 40% 21% 7% 8% (804)
February 2012 68% 26% 42% 16% 8% 8% (803)
October 2011 60% 21% 39% 20% 13% 7% (817)
August 2011 63% 19% 44% 26% 6% 5% (802)
May 2011 63% 24% 39% 22% 10% 6% (807)
December 2010 64% 24% 40% 23% 8% 5% (2864)
August 2004 61% 24% 37% 17% 12% 9% (800)
April 2001 64% 21% 43% 21% 6% 9% (802)
September 1999 62% 18% 44% 21% 9% 8% (802)
September 1998 62% 20% 42% 23% 9% 7% (804)
February 1996 60% 20% 40% 20% 11% 9% (804)
September 1993 52% 16% 36% 29% 14% 5% (801)
January 1992 53% 15% 38% 26% 15% 5% (800)
October 1987 60% 14% 46% 23% 6% 11% (500)
October 1986 55% 15% 40% 26% 10% 9% (800)
October 1983 59% 16% 43% 23% 10% 8% (802)
May 1978 52% 12% 40% 25% 12% 11% (1003)

 

  1. How safe do you feel in your neighborhood at night – very safe, somewhat safe, or not at all safe?
TREND: Very safe Somewhat safe Not at all safe (VOL)
Don't know

(n)

April 2018 65% 29% 5% 0% (703)
July 2017 71% 22% 6% 0% (800)
July 2015 67% 27% 6% 0% (503)
February 2015 62% 33% 4% 0% (805)
September 2014 58% 36% 6% 0% (802)
April 2014 66% 30% 4% 1% (803)
February 2014 67% 28% 6% 0% (803)
December 2013 60% 33% 7% 0% (802)
September 2013 65% 27% 7% 1% (783)
April 2013 66% 28% 6% 0% (806)
February 2013 63% 30% 6% 1% (803)
December 2012 64% 29% 6% 1% (816)
September 2012 65% 25% 6% 0% (805)
July 2012 60% 32% 7% 1% (803)
April 2012 64% 31% 5% 1% (804)
February 2012 62% 32% 5% 0% (803)
October 2011 62% 31% 7% 0% (817)
August 2011 63% 31% 6% 0% (802)
May 2011 68% 27% 5% 0% (807)
December 2010 59% 35% 6% 0% (2864)
February 1993 42% 44% 13% 0% (801)
October 1987 51% 36% 11% 2% (499)
October 1984 53% 36% 9% 2% (500)
May 1981 43% 43% 13% 1% (497)

 

[Q36-39 previously released.]


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

 

METHODOLOGY

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from April 6 to 10, 2018 with a random sample of 703 New Jersey adults age 18 and older, in English. This includes 421 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 282 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. Final sample is weighted for region, age, education, gender and race based on US Census information. Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and SSI (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).

 

DEMOGRAPHICS (weighted)
Self-Reported
21% Republican
41% Independent
38% Democrat
 
48% Male
52% Female
 
28% 18-34
36% 35-54
36% 55+
 
60% White
13% Black
17% Hispanic
10% Asian/Other
 

 

 

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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