A Stockton University Survey released yesterday — but conducted in September, before New Jerseyans go to the polls in November — gives local media in New Jersey mediocre marks, with many respondents saying they struggle to get the information they need to participate in their communities.

40% of respondents gave a negative assessment (from 1 to 2 points on a scale of 1 to 5) about the informativeness of media coverage of what is happening in local government, and 28% gave a positive assessment. When asked whether the media copes with information about participation in local communities, 57% gave a negative assessment and only 18% gave a positive assessment.

More broadly, only 13% of respondents said they had “a lot of trust” in local media; 59% said they had “some confidence” and 24% said they had “no confidence”.

“It’s a vicious cycle in which readership and viewership decline, resources shrink and local news content becomes less accessible,” said John Frunjian, director of the William J. Hughes, in a statement accompanying the survey. “As local coverage becomes scarce, fewer people read the news.”

The survey also seemed to show that media coverage – or the lack of it – of local issues affects New Jersey residents’ ability to participate in their community and make informed voting decisions.

49% of respondents said they didn’t have the information they needed “to try to solve problems in their community,” compared to 40% who said they had enough information.

51% of respondents, meanwhile, said they didn’t feel there was enough news coverage to make an informed decision in local and state elections; 40% said coverage is sufficient. This contrasts with 55% of respondents who said they believe national elections are covered enough to cast an informed vote.

Although the poll was released today, it was conducted from September 20-29, almost three months ago. It’s not clear why the pollster waited so long to release its data, although, unlike election polls, it’s reasonable to assume that New Jersey residents’ views on local media haven’t changed dramatically over the past three months.

The Stockton Polling Institute poll was conducted Sept. 20-29 among a sample of 559 New Jersey adults and has a margin of error of +/- 4.1%.

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