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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.]

7. 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 taxes45%48%25%31%42%45%
Income tax9%8%7%6%8%7%
Sales tax8%7%2%3%4%4%
Other tax, general taxes8%5%12%6%3%5%
Jobs14%14%35%30%42%18%
Economy, cost of living14%10%10%19%19%27%
State budget, govt. spending7%8%4%5%8%18%
Education/public schools16%14%21%10%20%12%
Higher education3%3%3%2%3%

n/a

Transportation, infrastructure14%10%2%3%2%1%
Environment4%4%2%2%1%2%
Health insurance, care6%10%11%8%5%18%
Crime, guns, drugs12%9%6%4%5%2%
Public pensions/benefits3%5%2%2%2%

n/a

Housing5%6%3%2%1%

n/a

Illegal immigration7%3%1%1%1%2%
Auto insurance1%3%0%1%1%

n/a

Superstorm Sandy recovery

n/a

n/a

8%23%

n/a

n/a

Legalize marijuana5%2%

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

Opioid crisis4%2%

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

Other8%12%9%4%8%11%
Nothing/no answer4%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.]

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

TREND:Excellent/
Good
ExcellentGoodOnly
Fair
Poor(VOL)
Don’t know

(n)

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)

[QUESTIONS 33, 34 AND 35 WERE ROTATED]

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

TREND:Excellent/
Good
ExcellentGoodOnly
Fair
Poor(VOL)
Don’t know

(n)

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?

TREND:Excellent/
Good
ExcellentGoodOnly FairPoor(VOL)
Don’t know

(n)

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?

TREND:Very
safe
Somewhat
safe
Not at
all safe
(VOL)
Don’t know

(n)

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)

[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