NEW BRUNSWICK and MADISON, NJ -- More than 80 percent of New Jersey residents 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%) 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%) or members of another race or ethnicity (9%).
 
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The majority of respondents see no need for change. Nearly two-thirds (64%) feel things are “fine the way they are” when it comes to diversity in their local schools; just a quarter (26%) 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–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% versus 73%) 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% versus 43%). Additionally, New Jerseyans are more likely than people nationally (64% versus 56%) to say things are fine the way they are when it comes to diversity in schools. 
 
“If 50% say their schools are mostly one race or ethnicity while 83% 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. 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.