Posted at 12:01 am October 2, 2019, in Diversity, Racism, Social class

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New Brunswick and Madison, New Jersey (October 2, 2019) – Though New Jersey is one of the most diverse states in the nation, not all residents experience its diversity within their own neighborhoods, according to the latest results from the Rutgers-Eagleton/Fairleigh Dickinson University polling partnership.

While most New Jerseyans say their neighbors are diverse in their political views, they report less diversity when it comes to social class and racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Half say they share the same social class as “all” (9 percent) or “most” (42 percent) of their neighbors, while about one in five report being in the same social class as “half” (22 percent) or “only some” (18 percent) of their neighbors. Six percent say they are not in the same social class as any of their neighbors. These numbers are on par with recent national findings from the Pew Research Center.

When it comes to race and ethnicity, four in ten New Jerseyans say “all” (7 percent) or “most” (35 percent) of their neighbors share a similar background, while about a quarter each say “half” (23 percent) or “only some” (26 percent) do. Eight percent say none of their neighbors share a similar racial or ethnic background. New Jerseyans report more racial and ethnic diversity among their neighbors than adults do nationally.

No matter the racial and ethnic makeup of their own neighborhoods, a solid majority of New Jerseyans support the concept of diversity. Fifty-nine percent believe it is important that people of different races and ethnic groups live, go to school, and work closely with each other. Forty percent, on the other hand, believe it is not important, as long as everyone is treated fairly and has the same opportunities. This is a marked shift from when the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll last asked this question in 1999 and in 2004, when views were evenly split.

“New Jersey is a true melting pot, and the solid support we see for racial and ethnic diversity goes hand in hand with the personal experiences many have with this kind of variety in their daily lives,” said Krista Jenkins, professor of government at Fairleigh Dickinson University and director of the Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll. “And even for those who report living in neighborhoods that are less diverse, their support for diversity in everyday life is similarly strong.”

“On the other hand, a notable segment of the population is isolated from the diversity New Jersey is so well known for and does not see it as a necessity in everyday life,” said Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP) at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “Who you live next to and what you believe are significantly influenced by key demographic factors like race, ethnicity, region, socioeconomic status, and age.”

More than two-thirds of residents (68 percent) approve of the idea that municipalities should be required to actively promote construction of low- and moderate-income housing, as required by New Jersey Supreme Court rulings in 2017 and prior years. This support is largely unchanged from a 2017 FDU Poll.

But the Garden State’s diversity does not always translate to racial and ethnic harmony. Almost four in ten New Jerseyans think there is “a lot” (8 percent) or “some” (29 percent) racial and ethnic tension among residents in their community. Another four in ten (40 percent) believe there is “just a little” tension where they live, while one in five (22 percent) say there is none. These responses are similar to those of a 2004 Rutgers-Eagleton poll.

The Rutgers-Eagleton/Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll of New Jerseyans contacted 1,250 adults between March 7 and 22, 2019. Of those, 621 of were contacted by live callers on landlines and cell phones, and 629 were reached through an online probability-based panel. The combined sample has a margin of error of +/-3.6 percentage points; the phone sample has a margin of error of +/-4.5 percentage points, and the online probability-base sample has a margin of error of +/-5.5 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish. The full analysis, along with the poll’s questions and tables, can be found on the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll website and the FDU Poll website.

Experiences, opinions vary by ethnicity

Similar percentages of white and non-white respondents say they value diversity, but white respondents are more likely to live in racially homogenous neighborhoods (55 percent of white respondents, compared with 25 percent of black respondents, 27 percent of Hispanic respondents and 17 percent of respondents of other backgrounds).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, white respondents are less likely to see racial or ethnic tension in their community (42 percent report “just a little,” 25 percent “none at all”). Half of black residents and about four in ten Hispanic residents, on the other hand, report “a lot” or “some” tension (51 percent and 43 percent, respectively).

Similar patterns emerge when it comes to political background. Black residents are slightly more likely to report political homogeneity among their neighbors than other racial or ethnic groups.

Most blacks (87 percent) and Hispanics (82 percent) approve of requiring affordable housing; a solid majority of whites also support this mandate (62 percent), but not to the same extent.

“Our polling partnership allowed us to interview more New Jerseyans than usual,” noted Jenkins. “As a result, we are able to look more closely at the stark differences in experiences and opinions between whites, blacks, and Hispanics when it comes to the issues surrounding and prevalence of diversity within each of these groups.”

Urban residents’ views stand out among regional differences

Urban and suburban residents report living in more diverse neighborhoods than rural residents. Only about a third of urban and suburban respondents say they share the same race or ethnicity as “all” or “most” of their neighbors, compared with about half of residents living elsewhere. Urban residents and those in the southern region of the state also report slightly more diversity among their neighbors when it comes to social class. Political views are more mixed across regions, though southern residents of the state report more political diversity within their neighborhoods than those in other regions.

While majorities across all regions believe in the importance of living, working, and going to school with people from different backgrounds, urbanites (at 72 percent) are much more likely to feel this way than others.

Urban residents are also more likely than others to report racial and ethnic tension within their neighborhood. Half (51 percent) of urbanites say there is “a lot” or “some” tension, as do four in ten residents residing in southern Jersey or at the shore. Conversely, 72 percent of exurban residents and 65 percent of suburban dwellers report just “a little” or no tension at all.

Urban residents are more likely to approve of greater attempts to remedy housing inequality: eight in ten (82 percent) approve of requiring towns to provide affordable housing, compared to seven in ten suburbanites and southern New Jersey residents, and six in ten exurbanites and shore residents.

“Where one lives is strongly correlated with race and ethnicity,” noted Koning. “Urban areas are typically more diverse and less white, which underscores and informs urbanites’ experiences and attitudes.”

Views vary by socioeconomic status, age, gender

Reported social class diversity within one’s neighborhood declines dramatically with income: 40 percent of those in households making under $50,000 annually say they share the same social class as “all” or “most” of their neighbors, compared to 65 percent of those making $150,000 or more. This division is also apparent in views on affordable housing. While a majority within each income bracket favors mandating towns to promote building affordable housing, support declines as income rises. Eighty-two percent of those within the lowest income bracket approve of an affordable housing mandate, compared to 59 percent among those in the highest income bracket.

There is less diversity among the lowest income bracket when it comes to the diversity of political preferences within their neighborhoods, while respondents in higher income brackets report a greater variety of political opinions in their neighborhoods.

Higher levels of education are associated with greater levels of belief that it is important to live, work and attend school with people from different backgrounds. Seven in ten respondents who have done graduate work share this belief, compared to six in ten of those with some college or a college degree and just under half of those with a high school diploma or less.

Older residents are more likely than younger residents to say “all” or “most” of their neighbors share their same race or ethnicity (52 percent versus 45 percent) or the same social class (57 percent versus 49 percent). Just over half of older residents say community diversity is important, compared with two-thirds of younger residents. Millennials are also more likely than respondents in other age groups to support affordable housing requirements, as well as to report “a lot of” or “some” racial and ethnic tension where they live.

Women are more likely than men to support diverse communities and an affordable housing requirement, though majorities of both women and men support both.

Stark partisan divisions

Democrats and independents are more likely than Republicans to report diversity among their neighbors in terms of race, ethnicity, and social class – but not political preferences. They are also much more likely than Republicans to say diverse communities are important (53 percent among independents and 74 percent among Democrats, compared with 39 percent among Republicans). Republicans are the only group in which a clear majority feels that diverse communities are unimportant.

Democrats and independents also report more racial and ethnic tension in their area: 41 percent of Democrats and 36 percent of independents say “a lot” or “some” can be seen in their neighborhoods, versus 29 percent of Republicans who report the same thing.

A chasm of difference exists between partisans on the issue of requiring towns to provide affordable housing. While Republicans are more split (46 percent approve to 50 percent disapprove), independents (61 percent) and especially Democrats (86 percent) are mostly in favor.

Online versus telephone

Some respondents in this sample were given the survey questions online, while others were asked these same questions by live interviewers via telephone. The online and telephone subsamples resembled one another and the general population aside from the interview methods. The presence or absence of conversing with a live interviewer had little effect on how respondents answered the survey questions.

Few differences emerge by survey mode. The rare exception is New Jerseyans’ attitudes toward the importance of racial and ethnic diversity. Sixty-five percent of online respondents say it is important that people with different racial and ethnic backgrounds live, work, and go to school together, compared to 53 percent of telephone respondents who say the same.

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