A new Rutgers-Eagleton poll shows that taxes have remained the biggest issue of concern in New Jersey for 50 years.
In 1971, an Eagleton poll found the state’s residents were most concerned about taxes then, and a 50th anniversary survey released on Nov. 23 shows most still rate taxes as the biggest issue.
“The more things change, the more they stay the same – at least when it comes to how residents view taxes,” said Ashley Koning, the director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University, in a statement.
Among 2021 respondents, 39% named taxes as the top issue facing the state; 26% said the same in the 1971 poll. The economy was the second most common answer, with 14% of residents saying it is the biggest issue, followed by 10% who cited state government and 6% who named the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll–the first university-based statewide survey research center in the nation–has been taking the pulse of New Jerseyans for five decades now and has perennially found taxes to be their biggest concern,” Koning said.
“As we revisit some of the first questions the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll asked in celebration of its 50th anniversary, it is clear that New Jerseyans’ frustration with taxes has not only withstood the test of time but also intensified.”
The poll found that taxes were a leading concern for residents in a range of demographic groups: 49% of Republicans, 44% of men, 42% of white residents, and 52% of older residents, higher-income residents and exurban residents.
Only 7% of those polled felt that the state was doing a great deal to deal with the problem, while 18% said the state was doing a fair amount; 34% said the state was doing very little; and 36% said the state was doing nothing at all.
A potent campaign issue
New Jersey has some of the highest property taxes, income tax and corporate business tax rates in the nation. The state imposes an 11.5% top corporate tax rate and a “millionaire’s tax” of 10.75% on every dollar earned above $1 million.
Gov. Phil Murphy, who narrowly won reelection this November, contends that the high tax rate is a premium for a high-quality education system, access to the talent pools in New York City and Philadelphia along with robust transportation infrastructure.
During the gubernatorial campaign, Republican former state Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli attacked Murphy on taxes and the cost of living. “Four years from today, we will still have a property tax crisis. We’ll still be the worst place in the country to do business. And we’ll still have a bloated, inefficient state government,” Ciattarelli said during his concession speech.
After the election, Republicans contended that the seven seats they gained in the state Legislature, others gained at local elections, and the close race at the top of the ticket all amounted to a mandate from voters that officials must address the cost of living.
“The thing that I would like to focus on is … affordability and high property taxes. Those are the things that people across New Jersey sent a very strong message on,” Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean said at an Atlantic City event earlier in November.
While Democratic lawmakers have agreed with that assessment, Murphy has defended his record on the economy and affordability, indicating that he intends to pursue many of the same policies in his second term.
“Make no doubt, this state is moving forward. I am committed to keep it pointed in this direction,” Murphy recently. “We have had – and not even arguably – the most successful efforts to date in providing real property tax relief to our residents.”
The Eagleton poll surveyed 1,008 New Jersey adults by phone between Oct. 21 and 27. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.