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Majority of Americans mistakenly believe violent crime worse now than 30 years ago: poll

A majority of Americans mistakenly believe that violent crime rates are worse today than they were 30 years ago, according to a new poll.

The survey, conducted by Axios/Ispos, checked in with Americans after the recent release of FBI statistics showing a spike in violent crime since the start of the COVID pandemic.

In total, 58 percent of overall respondents inaccurately believe crime rates are worse now than 30 years ago. That was true for about two-thirds of Republicans and a little more than half of Democrats, according to the poll.

The FBI data found that while violent crime, including murder, jumped throughout the pandemic—with a record-breaking one-year spike in 2020—the rates of overall crime now are significantly lower than they were three decades ago.

Nonetheless, a majority of Americans perceive, accurately, that violence has jumped since the start of the pandemic. The new findings fall in line with a separate poll this summer that found 94 percent of registered voters on either side of the political spectrum believe violent crime is now a significant issue in the U.S.

But while most Americans agree that violent crime is a concern, competing narratives about how much people should fear violence, and what may be causing the issue, exist across party lines.

Republicans are much more likely to blame the problem on reduced police funding, while Democrats cite recent economic turmoil and too many guns, according to the most recent poll. Fifty-four percent of Democrats view loose gun laws as a main cause, compared to just 8 percent of Republicans. In contrast, 58 percent of Republicans, and just 14 percent of Democrats, say less funding for police is the leading cause.

“It’s really an abstract issue for most people, and their views about it are defined by the media they consume,” said Chris Jackson, Ipsos pollster and senior vice president, adding that the issue has been “pushed into a national partisan framing.”

Overall, Americans’ perception on crime can likely be attributed to increased media coverage in the past year on gun violence and homicides, Keith Taylor, an adjunct assistant professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and former NYPD detective sergeant, previously told Newsweek.

“There are a number of different ways that individuals get information about crime that didn’t necessarily exist 10 years ago,” Taylor noted.

“Perceptions based on social media are a new way of influencing how people feel about things like crime, and when you tie in the traditional media—when you see the sensational types of headlines that appear in newspapers with horrific crimes for the basis of those articles—then it is not a surprise that individuals feel crime is more prevalent even if it is not the same in terms of the numbers.”

A majority of Americans mistakenly believe that violent crime is higher in the U.S. now than it was 30 years ago, according to a new poll. Here, crime scene tape is seen at the University of York’s Goodricke College on March 18, 2009.
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

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