Americans Are A Little Less Worried About Crime Than They Were In 2016

Americans are modestly less concerned about crime in the U.S. than they were in 2016, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll shows, although most still erroneously believe crime is on the rise.

A 42 percent plurality of Americans say crime is a very serious problem in the nation as a whole, down from 53 percent in a 2016 HuffPost/YouGov poll. The shift appears to cut across party lines, although it’s most pronounced among the president’s opponents: The share who believe crime is a very serious national problem is down 9 percentage points among Republicans, 6 points among independents and 19 points among Democrats.

Fifty-three percent of the public currently believes that the level of crime has increased nationally over the past decade, with only 14 percent believing the level had decreased. That’s at odds with the data on crime rates, which have for the most part declined over the past quarter-century.

Americans’ views of the nation as a dangerous place are also at odds with their perceptions about the places where they live. Just 12 percent of Americans now say crime poses a very serious problem in their own communities, almost unchanged from the previous survey. And though 3 in 10 say they’ve seen an increase in crime locally over the past decade, the majority say the level has stayed the same or fallen.

President Donald Trump has long made the promise to combat crime a central part of his platform. During the 2016 campaign, he declared himself the “law-and-order candidate.” In his inauguration speech, he cited the “American carnage” of “crime and gangs and drugs.”

More recently, Trump used the threat of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants in his thus-far unsuccessful push for a border wall, tweeting a couplet that read “BUILD A WALL & CRIME WILL FALL!” (As The Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham noted last year, the “social-science research on immigration and crime is clear: Undocumented immigrants are considerably less likely to commit crime than native-born citizens, with immigrants legally in the United States even less likely to do so.”)

Those who voted for Trump in 2016 are about twice as likely to say crime is a very serious problem in the U.S. (55 percent) than are Hillary Clinton voters (27 percent). Trump voters are also about twice as likely as Clinton voters to believe that crime has been on the rise both locally and nationally over the past decade. The distinction is softened closer to home, with just 18 percent of Trump voters and 10 percent of Clinton voters saying crime is a very serious problem in their own community. 

Divides in opinions about even national crime are relatively modest along other demographic lines. White Americans, for instance, are, by 7 points, likelier than black Americans to see crime as a very serious problem nationally but marginally less likely to say the same about their communities. Americans who live in rural areas are 9 points likelier than city-dwellers to call crime a very serious problem in the U.S. but are 5 points less likely to say crime is a very serious problem where they live.

Use the widget below to further explore the results of the HuffPost/YouGov survey, using the menu at the top to select survey questions and the buttons at the bottom to filter the data by subgroups: 

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Jan. 23-24 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some but not all potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

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