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new jersey department of environmental protection  


Living with the Future in Mind
Goals and Indicators for New Jersey's Quality of Life
First Annual Update to the Sustainable State Project Report 2000

Indicator 17

Additional  Good Government Indicators

18 - Voter Turnout

Knowledge of Government

Percent of survey respondents who know which party was in control of the State Legislature: Little change

  Things to think about 

U.S. Senators are among the most visible and media recognized of our elected leaders.

In a two-party system such as ours, decisions on all public issues are generally boiled down to voting for a candidate representing one party or the other.


While the numbers have slightly increased, in 1998 only half of us knew which party controlled the State Legislature; this is a significant drop from 62 percent in 1975. Such knowledge is an indicator of the vibrancy and health of our democracy. When we vote, our opinions on all of the pressing issues of the state are boiled down to choosing one party or another. How can we hold government responsible, and have a basis for our voting decisions, if we do not even know who is in power?


Our government has a profound impact on the functioning of our economy, as demonstrated by daily news coverage of what government is doing to regulate industries and promote economic health. However, if a majority of citizens lack the knowledge to express themselves within our government, we cannot be certain that government actions within the economy will serve our best interests.


The stakes are high when our government makes laws on how much pollution can be released, on where development can take place, on energy policy, and on other environmental issues. We can make these decisions reflect what’s best for our environment and ourselves, but only if we are knowledgeable about the issues and familiar with our representatives.


Our social structure is based upon an open and democratic dialogue between citizens and leaders. Those of us who are unaware of the political party in power will find it difficult to take part in a democratic dialogue and hold government accountable for its actions. Without this kind of interaction, we are hindered as a society in our ability to respond to New Jersey’s many pressing problems.

Knowledge Gaps

The ability to name the governing party or Senators only represents one form of citizen engagement. Important measures we do not have include knowledge of other state and local government leaders and of current public issues. These survey data are not collected regularly and have not been updated since 1998.

Data Source: Star-Ledger/Eagleton Polls

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Copyright © State of New Jersey, 1996-2006
Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Modified: April 27, 2007

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