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Offsetting Partisan Shifts in Garden State Quality of Life Index

New Jersey

Statewide rating stable, but dips for local schools, neighborhood safety

West Long Branch, NJ – More than 6 in 10 New Jerseyans continue to give positive ratings to their home state as a place to live, but views of some local aspects of the state’s quality of life have declined, particularly around schools and safety. The Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll’s benchmark index rating has remained stable due to offsetting partisan shifts in opinion, with Republicans feeling more negative than at the beginning of the year and Democrats feeling more positive.

Monmouth’s exclusive Garden State Quality of Life Index score now stands at +23, which is similar to January’s +24 rating and slightly lower than last year’s +27 rating. The current reading is near the midpoint of scores since Monmouth first started tracking the quality of life index in 2010. The index number jumped to +37 at the beginning of the Covid pandemic in April 2020, but dropped back to +25 in May 2021. In prior years, the index rating ranged between +18 and +31, with an outlying low point of +13 registered in February 2019.

The statewide index score has held steady since the beginning of the year, but there have been some regional shifts. Specifically, the index score has dropped in counties making up the Northern Shore (from +35 to +23) and Garden Core (from +14 to +2) regions. It has gone up in the Delaware Valley region (from +19 to +29) and held steady elsewhere. The Central Hills region (+38) continues to record the highest quality of life index score.

These regional shifts correlate with a change in partisan views of New Jersey’s quality of life. The Garden State Quality of Life Index score has dropped among Republicans (from +16 to +5) since January, at the same time it has risen among Democrats (from +37 to +46) and held steady among independents (from +17 to +16). The Northern Shore and Garden Core regions are significantly more Republican than other parts of the state.

“As with everything in society today, how people view what’s going on in their own backyards seems to be filtered through a partisan lens,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

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.

Garden State Quality of Life Index

NJ Total
August 2023+23+17+28+23+20+25+30+11+13+15+34
January 2023+24+21+28+29+23+22+31+15+7+27+31
April 2022+27+24+30+24+25+31+30+23+18+24+35
May 2021+25+20+29+24+24+27+25+20+17+25+31
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

Garden State Quality of Life Index
 RegionCommunity Type
Route 1
August 2023+26+15+26+38+23+29+2+8+29+24
January 2023+25+15+24+40+35+19+140+29+33
April 2022+28+16+28+42+34+27+19+15+31+31
May 2021+31+23+23+33+26+20+13+20+26+26
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

Examining individual components of the index finds that more than 6 in 10 New Jerseyans say the state is either an excellent (20%) or good (42%) place to live, while 25% say it is only fair and 12% rate the state as poor. The current positive rating of 62% is similar to recent poll results (63% in January 2023 and 64% in April 2022). The all-time high mark for this rating was 84% positive in February 1987. The record low was 50% in February 2019, but it improved to 61% by September of that year.

While state-level rating results have remained steady, some local metrics in the Garden State Quality of Life Index have dipped since the beginning of the year. Specifically, 70% of residents currently rate their own town or city as an excellent or good place to live. This is down from 77% who said the same in January but close to the 73% positive result in Monmouth’s 2022 poll. This rating has been given to fluctuations over the past decade, with a range of 67% to 79% since 2013. New Jerseyans’ ratings for environmental quality in their local area have been stable, currently at 75% positive, which is similar to both the beginning of this year (78%) and last year (76%).

The poll finds larger declines, however, in two areas – local schools and public safety. Currently, 56% of New Jerseyans rate their local schools as either excellent or good. This number stood at 60% positive in January and 63% positive last year. While the school rating did hover just above 50% positive for most of the late 1970s into the early 1990s, it has rarely dipped below the 60% mark in polling in the past three decades (hitting 59% in February 2019 and April 2013). Prior to the current poll, the previous low point for positive ratings of local schools was 52% in September 1993.

The percentage of New Jerseyans who currently feel very safe in their own neighborhoods at night stands at 58%, which is lower than 64% in January and 65% in 2022. This marks only the second time since 2010 that this metric fell below the 60% mark (58% in September 2014 and 59% in December 2010). It has generally ranged between 60% and 68% very safe while topping 70% on two occasions (71% in July 2017 and 74% in April 2020). However, polls taken in the 1980s and 1990s found a much lower sense of security among Garden State residents (between 42% and 53% very safe).

“Schools and safety have been hot-button topics for the past few years. It should come as no surprise that political clashes over these issues are having an impact on how New Jerseyans view their own quality of life in the state,” said Murray.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from August 10 to 14, 2023 with 814 New Jersey adults. The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 5.4 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?




(VOL) Don’t

August 202362%20%42%25%12%0%(814)
January 202363%18%45%25%12%0%(809)
April 202264%19%45%22%13%1%(802)
May 202159%16%43%27%14%0%(706)
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)

[Q2-12 previously released.]

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




(VOL) Don’t

August 202370%28%42%22%7%0%(814)
January 202377%34%43%18%5%0%(809)
April 202273%32%41%20%7%0%(802)
May 202176%33%43%19%5%0%(706)
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)


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




(VOL) Don’t

August 202375%28%47%19%5%1%(814)
January 202378%30%48%17%5%1%(809)
April 202276%31%45%17%7%0%(802)
May 202176%32%44%18%6%0%(706)
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)

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




(VOL) Don’t

August 202356%22%34%23%15%6%(814)
January 202360%19%41%22%11%6%(809)
April 202263%24%39%16%11%10%(802)
May 202164%24%40%18%8%10%(706)
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)

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

Not at
all safe
(VOL) Don’t

August 202358%36%5%0%(814)
January 202364%32%4%1%(809)
April 202265%29%5%0%(802)
May 202167%31%2%0%(706)
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)

[Q17-47 previously released.]

* 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 August 10 to 14, 2023 with a probability-based random sample of 814 New Jersey adults age 18 and older. Interviews were conducted in English, and included 245 live landline telephone interviews, 360 live cell phone interviews, and 209 online surveys via a cell phone text invitation. 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 2021 one-year survey). Interviewing services were provided by Braun Research, with sample obtained from Dynata.  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 5.4 percentage points adjusted for sample design effects (1.56). 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.

NJ Regions (by county)

North – Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Passaic, Sussex, Union, Warren

Central – Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Somerset

South – Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Ocean, Salem

Demographics (weighted)

Party (self-reported): 22% Republican, 43% Independent, 35% Democrat

Sex: 49% Male, 51% Female

Age: 27% 18-34, 34% 35-54, 39% 55+

Race: 55% White, 13% Black, 19% Hispanic, 13% Asian/Other

College: 58% No degree, 42% 4 year degree

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