April 27, 2022 | NJ.com
Like most other "Blue" States that have been rapidly shedding residents, a similar pattern appears to be developing in the Garden State.
A majority of residents like living in New Jersey, but the number that want to leave the state has reached a high point, a new poll has found.
Nearly 2 in 3 New Jersyeans — 64% — say the state is either an excellent (19%) or good (45%) place to live, according to Monmouth University’s annual Quality of Life poll, released Monday morning. Meanwhile, 22% say it’s a fair place to live and 13% say poor.
That’s slightly higher than last year’s 59% result and lower than the 68% mark in 2020. (The all-time high was 84% in February 1987 and low was 50% in February 2019.)
Still, 59% of residents say they want to move out of the some point — the highest number the poll has ever found. That’s up from 49% in 2007 and 53% in 2007, even though residents’ positive ratings of the state were similar to what they are today.
“It’s a bit of a head-scratcher,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “Positive ratings of New Jersey as a place to live have ticked up a bit. But so has the sense that people want to get out of here someday. One possible explanation is that residents appreciate the benefits that New Jersey has to offer, but the cost of living does not make it sustainable in the long run.”
A Rutgers-Eagleton poll released found similar results: Nearly 6 in 10 New Jersey adults said the state is an excellent or good place to live, while a record 36% said they would move to another state.
Monmouth’s poll found 36% of residents say it’s likely they will leave New Jersey at some point, up from 26% in 2014 and 28% in 2007.
There has been a larger jump in that view among younger adults under age 35 (up 17 points from 2014 to 42%) than among those age 35 to 54 (up 10 points to 43%) or 55 and older (up 8 points to 26%).
Among those who are at least somewhat likely to leave, 6 in 10 cite financial concerns, with property taxes (26%) at the top of the worries, followed by high cost of living (19%), other taxes (7%) and housing costs (7%).
As for political lines, Republicans (69%) and independents (64%) are much more likely than Democrats (47%) to say they want to leave. That’s a shift from 2014, when similar number of Republicans (48%) and Democrats (46%) said they would move. The same for 2007 (49% Republicans and 44% Democrats).
“Politics may also be playing a subtle role in wanting to get out of the state,” Murray said. “We are already aware of the self-sorting that has gone on for the past generation where people gravitate to communities and counties within their states where the neighbors are more like them ideologically. Who knows? As individual states become redder or bluer, maybe we are starting to see the same thing happening across state lines.”
The poll also found nearly 3 in 4 New Jerseyans — 73% — say their own town or city is an excellent (32%) or good (41%) place to live. That’s slightly lower than last year (76%).
When it comes to local environmental quality, 76% have a positive view, which is in line with last year. On schools, 63% have a positive view, compared to 64% last year. And 65% say they feel safe in their own neighborhoods at night, similar to 67% last year.
Monmouth’s Garden State Quality of Life Index, launched in 2010, measures how residents rate the quality of life in New Jersey. It’s based on 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 range from –100 to +100.
Monday’s score is +27, similar to last year’s +25 rating but down from +37 in April 2020, toward the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. The scores have ranged between +18 and +31 in previous years, with a low point of +13 in February 2019.
The score has increased in most areas of New Jersey over the last year — including the Central Hills (up 9 points to +42), Northern Shore (up 8 to +34), Delaware Valley (up 7 to +27), Garden Core (up 6 to +19), and Route 1 Corridor (up 5 to +28). It dropped slightly in the Northeast (down 3 points to +28) and noticeably in the Urban Core counties (down 7 to +16).
“It’s worth noting that the areas with the least positive views of New Jersey’s quality of life are the heavily Democratic urban areas and the heavily Republican rural counties,” Murray said.
The breakdown of those regions, according to the polling institute: Northeast is made up of parts of Bergen and Passaic counties; Urban Core of Essex and Hudson counties; Route 1 Corridor of Mercer, Middlesex, and Union counties; Central Hills of Hunterdon, Morris, and Somerset counties; Northern Shore of Monmouth and Ocean counties; Delaware Valley of Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester counties, and Garden Core of Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, Salem, Sussex, and Warren counties.
The poll was conducted via phone with 802 New Jersey adults from March 31 to April 4. The margin of error was plus-or-minus 3.5 percentage points.