Gallup poll – A slim majority of Americans describe the problem of U.S. crime as “extremely” or “very serious.” The latest 52% is up slightly from 48% in 2018 – when this measure hit a low not seen since 2005 – but remains down from the period of 2015 to 2017, when figures of seriousness ranged between 59% and 60%.
The data is from Gallup’s annual Crime poll, conducted October 1 to 13. Americans remain much more likely to describe the problem of crime in the U.S. as extremely or very serious than to say this about crime in their local area (13%). Women (58%) are more likely than men (46%) to describe U.S. crime as extremely or very serious. Adults who say they live in urban areas (17%) are more likely to describe local crime as serious than are residents of suburban (8%) and rural areas (10%).
Figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics have shown an actual general decline in U.S. violent crime since the early 1990s. Americans’ perceptions of crime across the country have differed greatly from what the bureau has reported. We juxtapose this Gallup poll data with actual crime rates in the inset chart. There are no correlations between reality and perceptions.
Looking closely, it seems that when the crime was declining rapidly, people could feel it and would poll accordingly to these perceptions. Once the crime started to slow down its improvements and plateaus, the negative perception level went right back up to where it started, regardless of the long term gains achieved.
This is somewhat like Pavlovian’s dog. People need to see constant crime statistic improvements, or they will think the worst. News Forecasters asks, what happens if it worked the other way around. What if the crime rates actually does go up? Will Americans freak out? It has been decades since we have seen crime rates go up as a trend. Looking at the tail end of this actual crime rates we may be seeing just the start of this – here are some potential reasons:
- The Ferguson effect – police more reluctant to police minority neighborhoods due to racial bias.
- Drive to end mass incarceration.
- Increased political violence due to the ongoing political divide in America.
- Increased wealth inequality which can drive envy and lack of social cohesiveness.
Regardless of how far from reality, Americans are, perceptions of crime matter, as they can impact Americans’ sense of safety and their confidence in law enforcement. Perhaps, more importantly, the politics. Let’s examine one example – the economy.
Perpetual economic progress has been at the heart of western society for the past 150 years or more. The idea has been simple: each generation should be better off than their parents. But recently this is starting to break down – and people know it, just ask most Mellineials. The result has produced an angry new generation asking for massive changes to the economic systematic status quo – not just an issue-based youthful revolt that we always see in each generation.
News Forecasters believes crime rates are going to start trending up for reasons already stated. If history is our guide, yes, Americans are going to freak out. We will see outrage and anger and demand for government action. We have already seen this in the second amendment debate over guns. The real danger is that this demand for more government will lead to further radicalization of government entities toward a totalitarian mentality. Be careful what you ask for.
A video presentation of this subject: