Crime and Environment Fall Far Below 1971 Levels

New Brunswick, NJ - In the very first Rutgers-Eagleton Poll in September 1971, crime and drug addiction topped taxes as the single most important problem in New Jersey. Forty years later, crime is barely mentioned as jobs and the economy are now New Jersey's top problem, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Taxes, which consistently have been listed first or second over 40 years, continue to vex New Jerseyans, ranking just behind jobs as the state's biggest problem.

The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, one of the first statewide academic surveys in the United States, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. As part of the celebration, the poll will revisit questions first asked in its earliest years. "We're honored to have served the people of New Jersey all these years," said poll director David Redlawsk, professor of political science at Rutgers University. "The most important problem question was the very first one on the very first poll. It is fun and instructive to see how things have both changed and remained the same over all that time."

Asked to name the two or three most important problems facing the state today, 27 percent name unemployment and jobs first, followed by 25 percent who cite taxes first, and 10 percent who express concern about the economy in general. Crime, cited first by 16 percent in 1971, beat taxes by only 2 percent. Today just 3 percent put crime at the top of the list. The environment, named by 10 percent in 1971, receives first mention from only 1 percent of Garden Staters today.

The new results are from a poll of 903 New Jersey adults conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from Oct. 6-9. The sample has a margin of error of +/-3.3 percentage points. Prior year polls included here have margins of error from +/- 2.8 percentage points to +/- 3.9 percentage points, depending on the size of the sample.