In its regular tracking of residents’ satisfaction with life in New Jersey, the Monmouth University Poll finds the current Garden State Quality of Life Index stands at +21. This is down significantly from other post-Superstorm Sandy readings, inclduing +29 in February and +30 in December. In fact, the current score matches the prior low from December 2010, when Monmouth first introduced the index.
A major factor in the index score is residents’ overall rating of the state as a place to live. Currently, more than 6-in-10 say New Jersey is either an excellent (15%) or good (46%) place to call home, compared to nearly 4-in-10 who rate it as only fair (27%) or poor (11%). This 61% positive rating is down by 7 points from the February poll and by 11 points from a decade-high 72% recorded in December just after Superstorm Sandy hit the state.
The decline in state ratings is accompanied by a drop in local evaluations. Specifically, 67% of New Jerseyans currently rate their town or city positively, down from 73% in February. This marks the lowest result for hometown evaluations in more than 30 years. The last time fewer than 7-in-10 New Jersey residents viewed their hometown positively was in 1980, when the number was also 67%.
Another area that shows a downturn in residents’ perceptions is the local school rating. Currently, 59% of New Jerseyans give their local schools a thumbs up, down 5 points since February. On the other hand, ratings of local environmental quality stayed stable at 70% positive and views of neighborhood safety actually went up by 3 points to 66% positive.
“The feelings of goodwill that permeated the state after Sandy have disappeared, even wiping out positive gains made prior to the storm. New Jerseyans are once again looking at the state’s quality of life with a more critical eye,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
The Garden State Quality of Life Index score declined for nearly every demographic group when compared to February’s results, with the exception of those earning over $100,000 a year for whom it remained fairly steady at +35. Regionally, the index score registered double digit drops in Urban Core counties (+4), the Route 1 Corridor (+19), and the Northern Shore (+22). The index stayed relatively more stable in areas not as affected by Sandy, including the Central Hills (+38), the Northeast (+31), the Garden Core counties (+21), and the Delaware Valley (+21). In fact, the Delaware Valley region, which suffered the least impact from Sandy, registered the most stable Quality of Life ratings for the period six months before Sandy hit to six months after, ranging narrowly from +21 to +26 during that time.
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.