By Brandon Diaz-Abreu
Brandon Diaz-Abreu is a data visualization and graphic representation intern at the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP) and a sophomore at Rutgers University.
In our most recent Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, New Jerseyans continue to say that taxes, followed closely by the economy and jobs, are the most important problems facing the Garden State – a combined 53 percent. Our previous polls show that these two issues have consistently been mentioned as the top problems since February 2013. But while there is a lot of focus on how the prolonged reign of these issues impacts politics in the Garden State, a closer inspection reveals some possible new trends in the years to come.
Approximately 10-13 percent of New Jersey residents have said education is the top problem in the state in the same time period as stated above, consistently ranked third or fourth as the most important issue. But when we look closer at this question by age and region, we see that each month, education is the first or second most important problem for people 18-39 years old (21 percent this past February) and is usually a close second for people who live in urban areas (12 percent this past February) – arguably two of the groups most impacted by this issue.
For young adults, the rising costs of higher education is one part of the issue that looms large: young college students are worried about how to pay tuition rates that are on the rise, and recent college graduates may be struggling to pay off their accumulated student loans. As for urban residents, their heightened interest in this issue may stem from concerns for quality of education and child safety in urban school systems.
As we can see in the table below, the issue of education has become an increasingly important problem to these particular groups, as well as to the New Jersey population overall, between 2009 and now. Though taxes and the economy have perennially been top concerns, it is possible that education could take the number one spot in New Jersey in the next few decades if little continues to be done for the state’s educational system.