The latest numbers continue a downward trend first seen in October 2021 after a much brighter outlook in June 2021.
“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, an assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP) at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “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.”
But which direction the state is headed in depends on who you ask. Democrats are twice as likely as independents and five times more likely than Republicans to say the state is going in the right direction (64 percent versus 33 percent and 13 percent, respectively). Democrats’ optimism is outperformed by Republicans’ pessimism, however: 82 percent of Republicans say the state has gone off on the wrong track. Over half of independents (55 percent) share this negative sentiment.
White residents (57 percent) have a more negative outlook on the state’s future than Black residents (33 percent) or Hispanic residents (41 percent). Millennials are the least pessimistic (38 percent) – and the most optimistic (48 percent) – age group. Those with a high school degree or less schooling are the least optimistic (31 percent say “right direction”) compared to those with higher levels of education, as are shore residents (29 percent).
When asked how satisfied they are with the New Jersey state government’s handling of various services, residents’ ratings depend on the particular service, ranging from widespread positivity to strong pessimism.
Nothing upsets New Jerseyans more than how their state government has handled financial areas like affordability and taxes. When it comes to the cost of living and affordability, eight in 10 are dissatisfied at some level – 51 percent “very,” 29 percent “somewhat” – with how the government manages the issue. On the other hand, 17 percent are “somewhat” satisfied, and just 3 percent are “very” satisfied. Similarly, three-quarters are dissatisfied (50 percent “very,” 26 percent “somewhat”) with how the state is handing taxes, compared to one in five who are satisfied (3 percent “very,” 18 percent “somewhat”).
Just over half express some level of dissatisfaction with how the state government is handling the budget and government spending (32 percent “very” dissatisfied, 23 percent “somewhat”), while over a third are more positive on this issue (6 percent “very” satisfied, 30 percent “somewhat”).
New Jerseyans are more split on how the state is doing regarding mental health and addiction (36 percent satisfied, 47 dissatisfied) and transportation and infrastructure (48 percent satisfied, 48 dissatisfied), with most responses residing somewhere in the middle.
Over half are satisfied with how the state is doing on the handling of the pandemic (54 percent satisfied, 45 percent dissatisfied), economy and job market (55 percent satisfied, 44 dissatisfied), crime and safety (57 percent satisfied, 43 dissatisfied), and the environment (58 percent satisfied, 38 dissatisfied).
New Jerseyans are the most satisfied when it comes to how the state government is handling health care (16 percent “very,” 45 percent “somewhat”) and education and schools (25 percent “very,” 40 percent “somewhat”). While over six in 10 say they are satisfied with the state’s education system and schools, just around three in ten are dissatisfied – the lowest level of dissatisfaction seen 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,” noted Koning. “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.”
Results are from a statewide poll of 1,044 adults contacted by live interviewers on landlines and cell phones from February 25 – March 4. The full sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.