Overall, 31% of New Jerseyans say the economic downturn has caused serious stress in their lives and another 36% say it has caused them stress, although not serious. Just 32% say that the current situation causes them no stress at all. These findings are similar to a national ABC News/Washington Post Poll taken in March, which found that 61% of Americans felt stress from the economy, including 33% with serious stress. Two-thirds of New Jersey residents at all income levels feel at least some stress due to the economy ñ including under $50,000 (67%), $50,000 to $100,000 (71%), and over $100,000 (65%).
The poll also asked New Jersey residents to place themselves on a ladder of life satisfaction, where step “10” represents the best possible life for them and step ì0î represents the worst possible life. The average New Jerseyan places himself or herself between the 5th and 6th steps ñ 5.7 to be exact. This is a full step below the average satisfaction rating of 6.8 that New Jerseyans gave themselves just two years ago. Overall, residents in all income levels and age groups have moved down a step on the life satisfaction ladder since April 2007.
Specifically, only 1-in-5 (19%) residents currently place themselves on the top three steps (i.e. 8, 9, or 10), which is down from 39% two years ago. By comparison, nearly half (47%) put themselves on the lowest rungs (0 through 5), which is nearly double the 25% who said the same in an April 2007 poll.
While they are now less satisfied with their lives, 2-in-3 New Jerseyans (68%) continue to say their household’s financial situation is basically good, compared to 29% who say it is in bad shape. Positive evaluations are down only slightly from last year, when a May 2008 poll found that 73% of state residents regarded their familyís finances as good.
“It appears that most New Jerseyans are doing what they need to do to keep their household budgets solvent, but itís putting a strain on their quality of life,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “The biggest cause of anxiety seems to be not so much whatís happening to them now, but fear of what may be coming down the line. “
When asked to name their main economic concerns right now, 30% of Garden State resident say they worry about potential unemployment and another 20% say they are worried about what’s happened to their retirement accounts or other investments. About 1-in-5 say meeting their mortgage (14%) or rent (4%) payment is a primary concern, 18% say it is college tuition or school costs, 16% say it is healthcare costs, and 5% say it is taxes. Another 21% report that paying “everyday bills” is their main economic worry.
Among New Jerseyans who are currently employed, nearly half (46%) feel less secure in their present job compared to a couple of years ago. In a poll taken in May 2008, just 30% said they felt less job security. Currently, only 19% of employed New Jerseyans feel more secure in their jobs and 35% feel about the same job security as they did a couple of years ago. Just last year, 27% of working Garden State residents felt more secure in their jobs and 42% felt as secure as they had in the past.
The poll also found that heightened anxiety about unemployment extends to the entire household. When asked about job loss potentially affecting their family, 44% of New Jerseyans say they are very concerned that someone in their household might be out of work in the next 12 months. Another 25% are somewhat concerned that this might happen and just 30% are not at all concerned. Just one year ago, only 33% were very concerned about this, while 42% were not at all concerned.
Currently, half of Garden State residents whose household income is less than $50,000 (52%), or who are under age 35 (50%), are very concerned about a job loss in their household in the coming year. Last year, these numbers stood at 41% for lower income families and 39% for younger adults. Concern about potential job loss has increased for higher income earners as well. Currently, 42% of those earning $50,000 to $100,000 are very concerned (up from 34% last year) and 33% of those earning more than $100,000 are very concerned (up from 25% last year) about someone in their home being out of work in the coming year.
The Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey Poll was conducted by telephone with 803 New Jersey adults from April 23 to 27, 2009. This sample has a margin of error of + 3.5 percent. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute and originally published by the Gannett New Jersey newspaper group (Asbury Park Press, Courier-Post, Courier News, Daily Journal, Daily Record, and Home News Tribune).