New Jersey residents are less satisfied with their quality of life now than they were about a year ago, when schools and businesses were shut down because of the pandemic, and a lower percentage of residents today, versus April 2020, call New Jersey an excellent or good place to live.

That's actually good news, according to the folks who've been tracking residents' responses for years.

"I think the most positive thing we see here is a return to normal," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. "During crisis situations, we tend to see rally effects."

In the April 2020 edition of Monmouth University Poll's Garden State Quality of Life Index, residents' responses delivered a record-high score of +37 on a scale that ranges from -100 to +100. In the May 2021 update, the score stands at +25.

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The poll asks for participants' overall opinion of the state as a place to live, as well as how they feel about their hometown, the performance of local schools, the quality of the local environment, and safety in their own neighborhood.

Close to 60% of New Jersey adults say the state is either an excellent (16%) or good (43%) place to live. That's down from 68% last year when, according to Murray, folks were more likely to feel good about their community because of the public health crisis. The last time the positive rating was higher than 65% was February 2013, a few months after Superstorm Sandy made landfall in the Garden State.

One of the more iconic indicators of whether the state is getting back to normal, Murray said, is activity at the Jersey Shore. In the MU poll, 58% of respondents said they plan to make a trip to the shore this summer. That's on the low end of the range that's typically seen in the poll, but it's much higher than the 27% recorded in April of last year.

The poll, though, recorded a lower-than-usual percentage of folks who plan to stay at the shore for at least a week.

"Adults are definitely going down for day trips and weekend trips, so it looks like the shore is going to get very close to rebounding back to normal business this year, and that's a good sign," Murray said.

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