New Jerseyans are mostly stuck at home, dealing with record unemployment, unsure when schools or stores or the Shore will reopen – and amidst all that, rating the quality of life in the state at an all-time high, according to a Monmouth University Poll.

Poll director Patrick Murray said the jump stems primarily from how people see their city or town. He said people are seeing more of their neighbors while anchored at home – and enjoying that part of it.

“Neighbors are helping neighbors. People are feeling friendlier about where they live, and that’s giving us this kind of sense of goodwill,” Murray said.

“It’s probably not going to stay this high,” he said. “I mean, the sense is that we’re all in this together. I think this is why people are feeling positive about their neighbors is that they know their neighbors are basically in the same boat that they are.”

Sixty-eight percent of New Jerseyans say the state is an excellent or good place to live, which Murray said is a little less than the record high. Seventy-nine percent said the same about their town or city.

“The reason why the numbers have gone through the roof are really when people look at their hometown as a place to live. That’s where we see the biggest jump,” Murray said.

The poll asks people about their local environment, public safety and schools, and Murray said the biggest increase among those metrics was for local schools.

“(Schools) are going through a whole lot, and I think people are giving them credit for trying to keep the school year going with the kids not actually being in school,” Murray said.

For 10 years now, the Monmouth Poll has been asking the questions that make up its Garden State Quality of Life Index. The results are consolidated and a single number that can range from negative 100 to positive 100.  It’s now at plus-37, topping the previous best in 2012.

“And in fact it hit a low just a year ago, plus 13. So we have now in a year gone from record low to record high,” Murray said.

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People are feeling positive about their state and neighbors when the chips are down – but that won’t last forever.

“These are numbers we’re seeing right here because we’re going through this,” Murray said. “Once things start returning back to normal, New Jerseyans will start griping and complaining about the same things that they have in the past.”

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Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at

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