JOINT RUTGERS-EAGLETON/FDU POLL: MOST NEW JERSEYANS PERCEIVE NO SCHOOL SEGREGATION

Posted at 12:01 am August 26, 2019, in Education, Racism, Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, Segregation

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New Brunswick and Madison, New Jersey (August 6, 2019) – More than 80 percent of New Jerseyans say their local school districts include a good mix of races and ethnicities, and just 14 percent say their local schools are segregated, despite research that has found high levels of segregation of black and Latin-American students in the Garden State.

New Jerseyans’ views about the ethnic makeup of their local school districts are the subject of the latest Rutgers-Eagleton/Fairleigh Dickinson University polling partnership, in collaboration with Fairleigh Dickinson University’s School of Public and Global Affairs.

Almost half (49 percent) of respondents report that students in their district represent a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds. Another third, however, say the students at their local schools are mostly white, and almost one in five say their local schools are mostly black (8 percent) or members of another race or ethnicity (9 percent).

The majority of respondents see no need for change. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) feel things are “fine the way they are” when it comes to diversity in their local schools; just a quarter (26 percent) say they would like to see more racial and ethnic diversity.

“Despite being one of the most diverse states in the country, research shows New Jersey has the sixth-highest level of segregation of black students and the seventh-highest level for Latin-American students,” said Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP) at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “Yet most residents’ perceptions seem at odds with reality, except for those who may experience it firsthand due to their own race, ethnicity, or economic status.”

The Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll asked the same questions earlier this year of a set of national respondents. New Jerseyans are more likely than individuals nationwide to say their local schools have “a good mix” of races (83 percent versus 73 percent) but are also more likely to say their local schools are dominated by students of one race or ethnicity, whether white, black or another group (50 percent versus 43 percent). Additionally, New Jerseyans are more likely than people nationally (64 percent versus 56 percent) to say things are fine the way they are when it comes to diversity in schools.

“If 50 percent say their schools are mostly one race or ethnicity while 83 percent say their school has a good mix, then clearly there are different ideas about what constitutes segregation,” said Peter Woolley, Director of FDU’s School of Public and Global Affairs.

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.

Race and Ethnicity Drives Perceptions of School Segregation

White residents are more likely than non-white residents to report greater diversity among students in their district (52 percent versus 45 percent) but are also more likely to report students in their district as being mostly white (37 percent to 27 percent). Non-white residents, on the other hand, are more than twice as likely as white residents to report that the students in their local school district are mostly black (13 percent versus 4 percent) or mostly another race or ethnicity (14 percent versus 5 percent), though these numbers are still comparatively small.

Three-quarters of those who report that their local school district is mostly white nevertheless say their district has a good mix of different races and ethnicities. On the other hand, a majority of those who report that local students are mostly another race or a mixture of races say the district has a good mix racially and ethnically.

Age and socioeconomic status also play a role

Younger residents are more likely than older residents to perceive segregation in their local school district and are also less likely to report a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds among their student population.

Those living in higher-income areas see less diversity in their local school district. Nearly half (46 percent) of those in the highest income bracket say the students in their local schools are mostly white, compared with one in five (22 percent) who say the same among those in the lowest income bracket. Likewise, four in ten (40 percent) of those in the highest income bracket report a mostly mixed student body, compared with almost two-thirds (63 percent) of those in the lowest income bracket.

A similar pattern emerges with education: two-thirds of those with a high school diploma or less say their student population includes a mixture of races and ethnicities, compared with one-third of those who have completed some type of graduate work.

Residents mostly content with racial and ethnic mix in schools

Women are more likely than men (30 percent versus 22 percent) to say they would welcome more diversity – though about two-thirds of each gender are fine with the way things are now.

Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to prefer more racial and ethnic diversity (39 percent versus 5 percent). Independents tend to agree with Democrats, with 29 percent wanting to see more diversity in their schools.

White residents are more likely than non-white residents (72 percent versus 52 percent) to say things are fine the way they are; non-white residents are twice as likely as white residents (38 percent versus 18 percent) to say more diversity is needed.

Some respondents answered the survey questions online, while others spoke by phone with live interviewers. The presence or absence of a live interviewer appeared to affect their expressed diversity preferences. While a small percentage of respondents said they wanted less racial and ethnic diversity in their schools, those who completed the survey online were more than four times likely to express that view than those who spoke with an interviewer (12 percent vs 3 percent).

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