NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ -- “Hug my parents” and “hold someone’s hand” when the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll asked about the first thing they would do when life in New Jersey returns to normal.

One in five residents (20%) crave re-connecting with loved ones, according to the poll. Similar numbers want to simply go to a different place other than their house, such as the gym; or do familiar pre-pandemic activities, like shopping.

Just over one in ten want to eat out – a wish that will be granted to some extent with the introduction of outdoor dining next week. Others just want to get back to work (7%), go on vacation or to the shore (each at 6%), or simply get a haircut (3%).

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Women (26%) and millennials (24%) are some of the top groups most likely to want to interact with family and friends. Those most affected by the pandemic in terms of work are especially eager to get back to it, such as  those in the lowest income bracket (15%), non-white residents (11%), and millennials (10%).

"New Jerseyans are longing for human connection and a return to the ordinary after almost three months of the pandemic,” said Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP) at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.

“Yet despite this yearning for normalcy, our polling has shown that New Jerseyans do not expect things to be fully back to normal anytime soon and are still worried about what the future of the pandemic may bring.”

Thanks for healthcare workers

Unsurprisingly, respondents expressed immense gratitude when asked what they would like to say to healthcare workers, first responders, and essential workers in the Garden State. Fifty-six percent of residents gave some form of thanks, another 16% praised the job these workers are doing, and 9% offered their thoughts and prayers.

“You are true heroes,” one resident said. Another noted: “We owe them everything.” Some respondents expressed pride, the need for hazard pay for essential workers, and advocated wearing masks and staying home in their honor. A respondent who is an essential worker returned the gratitude, wanting to “thank everyone.”

Most New Jerseys are doing well during this pandemic 

When asked to describe in one word how they feel, 29% claim they are “doing great”; another 22% are “all right,” and 8% say they are “okay.”

Another one in five feel more negative – scared or anxious (5%), tired (5%), annoyed or angry (4%), awful (4%), or stressed (4%). 

Results are from a statewide poll of 1,502 adults contacted by live callers on landlines and cell phones from April 22 – May 2. The full sample has a margin of error of +/-2.9 percentage points.

Home of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling was established in 1971 and is the oldest and one of the most respected university-based state survey research centers in the U.S. Now in its 48th year and with the publication of over 200 polls, the Eagle Center's mission is to provide scientifically sound, non-partisan information about public opinion. Rutgers University–New Brunswick, the State University of New Jersey, began more is ranked among the world’s top 60 universities. It is home to internationally acclaimed faculty and has 12 degree-granting schools, a Division I Athletics program, and the Big Ten Conference’s most diverse university.