Monday, April 26, 2010

Believe It or Not - Most New Jerseyans Like it Here!

Newsflash! New Jerseyans mostly like NJ! While there are certainly things to complain about - taxes in particular top the list - the latest results from the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll show that most residents of New Jersey would stay put in their neighborhood even if they could move (though 23 percent would move out of state), and a majority has at least some (or a great deal) of pride in the state. There is of course a sense among some that most people in New Jersey would leave if they could, and feel little connection to their state. Our results suggest this isn't really true. There is lots to like about living in New Jersey, though maybe ironically one of the top reasons people gave us was the state's proximity to New York City. But other top reasons include the Jersey Shore, the environment in general, and the state's diversity.

So for those of you who think the reason bridge tolls in New Jersey are only on the outbound side is charge people who want to leave, the reality is that people in New Jersey do take pride in the state and in the many things that make it a good place to live. There are problems, of course, including high property taxes, but it seems in most New Jersey residents' minds those problems are outweighed by the positives of such a diverse and interesting place.

The press release follows. Questions and tables can be found here.


While somewhat critical, residents find many good things about Garden State

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J – New Jerseyans are simultaneously very proud of their state and somewhat critical of it as a place to live, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Only 13 percent say it is an excellent place to live, but 39 percent call it a good place to live. Fully half say they take a lot of pride in living here, and less than a quarter say they would move out of the state if they had the opportunity to do so.

The poll of 953 New Jersey adults was conducted March 31 – April 3 and has a margin of error of +/-3.2 percentage points.

“While New Jerseyans certainly find things to complain about, a majority still see the state as a good place to live,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “What we see is that the many good things about the state seem to outweigh frustrations for most residents.”

Best and worst of New Jersey

Asked to name the best thing about living in New Jersey, respondents gave a wide range of answers, including its proximity to New York and other major centers, the beaches and the shore, the natural environment generally and the state’s diversity. “New Jerseyans have many reasons to like their state, and no one reason really dominates,” said Redlawsk.

About the state’s negatives, taxes were named by 37 percent of respondents, far outpacing any other dislike. Other common negatives were the cost of living here, significant traffic congestion and the existence of political corruption.

“It is no surprise that taxes led the negatives,” said Redlawsk. “This reflects both the sense that taxes are high, but also the ongoing debate over the state budget, which was well underway when we did this survey.”

Lots of pride in New Jersey

Half of New Jerseyans say they take a lot of pride living in the Garden State, while only 8 percent say they don’t take any pride living here. Given the opportunity, 23 percent of respondents said they would move out of state. A large majority (63 percent) would continue to live in their neighborhoods, while another 14 percent would move within their town or elsewhere in the state.

“While some people clearly have frustrations, most would stay here even if they could leave,” Redlawsk said. “This really suggests a sense of stability, even while there are plenty of issues the state needs to address.”

Overall, New Jersey seen as a good place to live

More than half of those polled called New Jersey an excellent (13 percent) or good (39 percent) place to live. Fifteen percent say it is a poor place to live; one in three rates it fair. The 63 percent of residents who would stay in their neighborhoods even if they could move are more positive: 16 percent call the state excellent, and 48 percent good. Sixty percent of this group takes lots of pride in their state, but of the 23 percent who would leave if they could, 80 percent rate New Jersey as only a fair (48 percent) or poor (32 percent) place to live.

Contentment varies with region, party identification, income, race, and age

A closer look at attitudes towards life in New Jersey shows most strikingly that where people live has a great effect on their happiness with the state. Urban residents are more likely to rate New Jersey as an excellent place to live (21 percent) compared to suburban and exurban/northwest residents (13 percent). Ten percent of those at the shore and 8 percent near Philadelphia grade the state excellent. Conversely, 20 percent of Philadelphia area residents call the state a poor place to live, higher than in any other region.

Almost six in 10 urban residents take a lot of pride living here, but only 46 percent of those near Philadelphia feel the same. Given this, not surprisingly Philadelphia area residents are the most likely to say they would move out of state if they could (29 percent). More than two-thirds of exurban residents would remain in their neighborhoods, even if they could move.

Democrats are much happier with life in the Garden State than Republicans, despite the election of a Republican governor last fall; 60 percent of Democrats rate New Jersey as an excellent or good place to live, compared with 45 percent of GOP backers. Independents are also less likely than Democrats to assess New Jersey positively as a place to live.

Wealthier residents are somewhat more content with life in New Jersey. Of those with household incomes over $150,000, 60 percent say the Garden State is an excellent or good place to live, while 50 percent of those making less than $50,000 feel the same.

Asians and Latinos (both 20 percent) are most likely to grade the Garden State as an excellent place to live. Only 12 percent of white respondents and 10 percent of blacks do the same. Black respondents also are more likely to say they would leave the state if they could, with 30 percent ready to move, compared with 24 percent of whites and less than 10 percent of the small samples of Asians and Latinos.

The poll’s youngest and oldest respondents are most proud of New Jersey. More than half (56 percent) of 18-to-29 year olds say they feel a lot of pride in New Jersey compared with 46 percent of 30-to-49 year olds, and 45 percent of 50-to-64 year olds. Fifty-seven percent of those older than 65 said they feel a lot of pride.

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