What New Jerseyans deem as necessary in their everyday lives may be a comparative judgment, but generally, at the top of the list of necessities are rent money, gasoline, and food to put on the table.

With a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll recently showing that the economy is the biggest issue on the minds of New Jersey voters weeks before the midterm elections, and inflation not far behind, another, newer survey finds more and more people are cutting back on things they don't need to survive.

And these don't have to be what might be termed "luxury" items, according to Ashley Koning, Rutgers assistant professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling.

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"This is kind of left up to interpretation, but I think all New Jerseyans, much like the rest of the country, are feeling the pinch of inflation," Koning said. "Six in 10 New Jerseyans say they have cut back on other spending in order to afford necessities like groceries and rent and so on."

Breaking those numbers down, 28% of the more than 1,000 adults surveyed in the state said they have cut back on "other" spending a lot, and 33% say some. Two remaining responses came in at 19% each: those who've cut back a little, and not at all.

Partisan and other demographic differences emerge within those percentages. Three-quarters of Republicans reported cutting back on at least "some" spending, compared to two-thirds of independents and slightly less than half of Democrats who responded.

Looking at those who say they've cut back "a lot," non-white residents were more likely — by double digits — than non-Hispanic white residents to give this response, as were adults in households making less than $100,000 annually.

"It's no surprise because New Jerseyans obviously feel the pinch when it comes to household expenses and affordability," Koning said.

An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released Tuesday indicated 61% of Americans say they know little to nothing about the Inflation Reduction Act, and although President Joe Biden's administration is pushing that package as a sweeping and definitive commitment to addressing climate change, New Jerseyans may not believe its intended economic remedies will impact them.

Nearly two-thirds of New Jersey respondents in the Rutgers poll say they support the act (41% strongly and another 24% at least somewhat), but 38% — including 81% of Republicans — don't believe it will help their personal finances or spending freedom at all.

"That could potentially be stemming from New Jerseyans, much like the rest of the country, not knowing exactly what is in the Inflation Reduction Act and how it may affect and impact their household," Koning said.

But Koning also suggested that such a big disconnect, so close to the midterms, could be a bad omen for the Biden administration and the Democratic Party overall.

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com

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