Only half of New Jerseyans think well of the state’s quality of life. Eleven percent rate it as excellent and another 39 percent rate it as good, while 32 percent say it merits only a fair grade and 17 percent rate it poorly. The results are from the latest Monmouth University Polling Institute’s update of the Garden State Quality of Life Index. The overall 50 percent rating is an all-time low. Last year’s overall rating was 54 percent and you’d have to go back to 1980 to find as low a result for this metric in opinion polls.
“Yikes!” Patrick Murray, director of the institute, said in a statement. “This is a huge warning sign for the state’s political leadership. If New Jerseyans aren’t confident that the situation will turn around, they will start voting with their feet,” he said. For the past decade the rating has tended to hover in the mid-60s. Before that, polls of residents’ enthusiasm for the state’s quality of life veered toward the 70s, even reaching as high as 84 percent in 1987. (What did they put in the water that year?)
The score fell hardest in the Delaware Valley (Burlington, Camden, Gloucester counties), dropping 17 points from a +14 score last year to –3. The state’s urban core (Essex and Hudson counties) also registered a big drop, going from +8 last year to –1 in the current poll. And even though denizens of the affluent Central Hills area (Hunterdon, Morris, and Somerset counties) gave the state the highest score on the index this year (+27), that’s still down seven points from last year (+34). The northern shore (Monmouth, Ocean counties) is the only region where the score has ticked up over the past year, from +18 to +21.
The institute created the index in 2010, based on five separate poll questions: overall opinion of the state as a place to live (which contributes half the index score), ratings of one’s hometown, local schools and local environment, along with feelings of safety in one’s own neighborhood.
Life in New Jersey clearly is giving a lot of us the blahs right now, but there’s a ray of light in the latest results. Two in three New Jerseyans (67 percent) rate their own town or city as an excellent (30 percent) or good (37 percent) place to live.