Eagleton poll finds New Jersey residents divided on quality of life
For some, life in the Garden State is as pretty as it sounds, but many still recognize New Jersey’s weaknesses.
New Jersey residents are mixed about their state's quality of life, according to the latest Eagleton Institute of Politics poll. Respondents thought the state is a good place to live, but not to find work or raise kids.
About 58 percent of respondents think the state is a good or excellent place to live and raise a family, and 70 percent think the same with regard to education and recreation, according to the poll.
But 63 percent think New Jersey is a fair or poor place for job prospects, 55 percent think it is a fair or poor place for running a business and 79 percent think the same about retirement.
Results were gathered from the responses of 843 adults from a statewide poll by live callers from Nov. 30 to Dec. 6, 2015, according to the poll.
Most believe New Jersey’s quality of life has declined or stayed the same within the last 10 years, and only 33 percent believe it will improve now, according to the poll.
The majority believes the state is still on the wrong track, said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers.
This is the most negative period since October 2009, she said. The results depend on different indicators and are affected by the difference in demographics across the state.
Certain demographics are correlated with positive ratings while others ones with more negative ratings, she said.
“The highest ratings are among younger residents, those in more affluent households, those living in particular regions and residents who are newer to the community,” she said. "On the flipside, those who have been here longer, who are older and those of lower household income have a more negative view on family life and the state."
Most New Jersey residents base their opinions on their personal experiences, she said.
Retirement has a large age factor that plays a role in judging residents opinions of their state. Those approaching retirement and middle-aged residents have a lower opinion than newer residents, she said.
A political climate can also be a factor affecting resident’s opinions, Koning said.
“New Jerseyans disapprove highly of Gov. (Chris Christie) and have translated their low ratings for him into their low rating for their state,” she said.
New Jersey residents are not seeing anything get done and feel New Jersey is lagging behind other states and that taxes are far too high, Koning said.
“I think it’s going to take a while for New Jersey to boost these rating up again and potentially something we wont see until a new governor takes office within the state,” she said.
But this difference in opinion is not just a New Jersey problem, she said.
“Whatever state we are looking at, it will depend on peoples personal experience, socioeconomic background, financial status and employment,” she said
David Robinson, a professor in the Department of Geography, teaches a course on the geography of New Jersey. He said mixed opinions should be expected everywhere, it is not special to New Jersey.
“There will always be individuals who will never want to leave the state, while others cannot wait to depart,” he said. “So also, must this seemingly apply to those wanting to move to the state and others perhaps having to move here reluctantly.”
New Jersey has a better reputation today than in years past, Robinson said.
“Sure, some reality television programs having cast the best light on the state, but I think most people know that these really aren't what 'reality' is like here,” he said. “I also don't think that Sandy caused negative opinions of New Jersey.”
The storm enhanced how those in New Jersey and outside of New Jersey think about the state, Robinson said.
“I'm not suggesting all went well with the handling of the storm before, during and especially after it,” he said. “However there is some perception that New Jersey rallied to pull out of it.”
Last summer, Robinson hosted the annual meeting of the American Association of State Climatologists. A number of attendees spoke of New Jersey more positively after the visit, he said.
“I'm not trying to sing the praises of life in New Jersey in any false way, shape or form but I truly believe that one of the best means of increasing people's opinions of N.J. is to visit N.J.,” he said.
Noa Halff is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore with an undeclared major. She is an associate news editor for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @NoaHalff for more.