N.J. is headed in the wrong direction, residents say in new poll

Published: Mar. 21, 2022

About half of New Jerseyans aren’t optimistic about their state these days, and the vast majority of residents aren’t happy with how the government is handling the high cost of living here, a new poll shows.

Fifty-two percent of adult residents said the Garden State is on the wrong track, while 38% say it’s headed in the right direction, according to the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released Monday morning.

The survey also found 8 in 10 residents are dissatisfied at some level with how state officials are handling affordability, while three-quarters are unhappy with how the state is handling taxes.

Those topics have emerged as major issues in the wake of November’s contentious elections, in which Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy won re-election by a closer-than-expected margin and Democrats kept control of the state Legislature but lost seven seats to Republicans.

Satisfaction among New Jerseyans has been on a downward trend after a brighter outlook in a June 2021 Rutgers-Eagleton poll, in which 52% of residents said the state was on the right track. That came as the state emerged from the low points of the coronavirus pandemic, with vaccines being doled out and Murphy still enjoying high approval ratings.

The numbers are still better than an April 2019 poll, in which 58% said the state was on the wrong track.

“New Jerseyans have a slightly better outlook on the state’s future nowadays than when the Murphy administration first took over in 2018, but pessimistic views still outweigh optimistic ones,” said Ashley Koning, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and an assistant research professor at Rutgers University.

“Residents have been more negative about the Garden State since March 2014, a streak broken only temporarily in June 2021 in the wake of Governor Murphy’s pandemic-induced high ratings, COVID-19 vaccine availability, and the state opening up after a year of pandemic restrictions,” Koning added.

Results from this poll have been released intermittently over the past few weeks. Last week, Rutgers-Eagleton announced the survey showed 33% of residents see Murphy in a favorable light — down from 50% in November — while 38% have an unfavorable opinion. But about half, 49%, approve of the job he’s doing as governor.

This also comes about eight months before all 12 of New Jersey’s U.S. House seats — 10 of which are held by Democrats — are on the ballot in the midterm elections.

The poll found Democrats are twice as likely as independents and five times more likely than Republicans to say the state is on the right track (64% vs. 33% and 13%). Meanwhile, 82% of Republicans and 55% of independents say the state is headed in the wrong direction.

Meanwhile, white residents (57%) have a more negative outlook on the state than Black residents (33%) and Hispanic residents (41%). Millennials are the most optimistic (48%) group, while those with a high school degree or less are the least optimistic (31%).

The poll also asked residents how satisfied they are with the state government’s handling of various services:

  • 51% said they are very concerned about how the state is handling cost of living and affordability, while 29% said they are somewhat concerned. Only 3% said they are very satisfied, while 17% said they are somewhat satisfied.
  • 50% said they very dissatisfied with how the state is handling taxes, while 26% say they are somewhat dissatisfied. Only 5% said they are very satisfied, while 18% said they are somewhat satisfied.
  • Just over half expressed some dissatisfaction with how the state is handling the budget and government spending (23% somewhat and 32% very), while a third are more positive (30% somewhat, 6% very).
  • Residents are more split on how the state is handling mental health and addiction (36% satisfied, 47% dissatisfied) and transportation and infrastructure (48% satisfied, 48% dissatisfied).
  • More than half are happy with how the state is handling the pandemic (54% satisfied. 45% dissatisfied), economy and job market (55% satisfied, 44% dissatisfied), crime and safety (57% satisfied, 43% dissatisfied), and the environment (58% satisfied, 38% dissatisfied).
  • Residents are most satisfied with how the state is handling health care (16% very, 45% somewhat) and education and schools (25% very, 40% somewhat). Only around 3 in 10 residents are dissatisfied with schools — the lowest level of dissatisfaction on any issue.

“Satisfaction with how the New Jersey state government is handling a range of issues has changed little in the past four years despite the change in administration in 2018,” Koning said. “Taxes and affordability are issues that have continually plagued the state, at least in the past five decades that we have been polling, while education has always been viewed as a strong point.”

The poll was conducted via phone from Feb. 25 to March 4 with 1,044 New Jersey adults. The margin of error was plus-or-minus 3.5 percentage points.

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-03-22 03:25:42 -0700