Most New Jerseyans understand that some folks are in a more advantageous situation from the start of their lives, but not as many point to systemic factors such as racism and discrimination as major causes, according to a new poll conducted for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

In fact, the poll suggests that individuals with greater privilege not only lead healthier lives but are also less likely to acknowledge race and ethnicity as contributors to glaring health disparities. People lacking access to safe housing and adequate health care, meanwhile, are more likely to connect racism and health.

"Residents are mostly positive about various public health-related aspects of life, but demographic divides and disparities pervade attitudes and experiences, revealing differences in how residents believe individual, versus societal, factors impact health," said Ashley Koning, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University.

The first-of-its-kind poll of about 2,500 New Jersey adults was conducted by the Eagleton Center between February and April 2022.

In the poll, most respondents recognized unequitable health care access, but fewer than 40% said they feel discrimination interferes with residents' ability to get quality health care.

Compared to white residents, Black and Hispanic residents are nearly twice as likely to say New Jersey's pregnant population is treated inadequately or unfairly due to their race or ethnicity "all" or "most" of the time.

Young pregnant black woman touching her belly - African people
sam74100, ThinkStock

Women, Black residents, and those living in urban areas are more likely than their counterparts to "strongly agree" that all people should have the opportunity to lead a healthy life without disadvantages related to social position or determinants.

"Research clearly shows that health is strongly influenced by factors outside of anyone's individual control," said Leslie Kantor, chair of the Department of Urban-Global Public Health at the Rutgers School of Public Health.

Kantor said the poll findings underscore the need to better educate Garden State residents about the challenges faced by people of color, women, lower-income people, and individuals living in urban areas.

Overall, 70% of New Jerseyans said that some New Jerseyans have less of an opportunity than others to lead a healthy life.

"Our learnings will guide the work of our New Jersey grant-making team to reduce health disparities in the state, which as we know, are especially pronounced along racial lines and are driven by centuries of racial injustice," said Brent Thompson, a communications officer with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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