Gallup: Americans haven't been this worried about crime since ... the last Dem president

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

What issues will drive voters to the midterm polls in November? First and foremost will be the economy, especially in regard to high inflation and shortages. If Joe Biden lifts Title 42 as expected in May, we can expect the border crisis to push immigration into a high-priority position too. However, the sharp increase in crime, especially violent crime, will almost certainly influence voters — especially the prized “suburban moms” segment.

How worried should Democrats be about this big red flag from Gallup, then?

Americans’ concern about crime and violence in the U.S. has edged up in the past year, and for the first time since 2016, a majority (53%) say they personally worry a “great deal” about crime. Another 27% report they worry a “fair amount,” which places the issue near the top of the list of 14 national concerns — behind only inflation and the economy, and on par with hunger and homelessness. …

The latest reading, from a March 1-18 poll, is in line with similar findings last fall that showed upticks in Americans’ anxiety about experiencing a range of crimes and their belief that crime in their local area was worsening. Government national crime data have also shown recent increases in the U.S. homicide rate to its highest point in 25 years.

Speaking of suburban moms …

Majorities of women, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, and those aged 30 and older worry a great deal about crime. … Where U.S. adults live in the country also affects the degree of concern they have about crime. City residents (58%) register a higher level of worry than U.S. adults residing in suburbs (46%) and rural areas (51%). City dwellers’ worry has increased nine percentage points since 2021, while worry among suburbanites and rural residents is essentially flat. This likely reflects the record-high homicide rates in numerous U.S. cities last year.

Ya think? The surprise may be that it’s not higher. The whole “defund the police” movement ran out of gas last year with a few exceptions among progressive extremists in Congress, but Democrats are likely still paying the price for it. Crime and urban violence likely explains why Kenosha, Wisconsin elected its first-in-decades Republican county executive after watching their city burn in the demonstrations and riots over the police shooting of fugitive Jacob Blake, and then watching local prosecutors attempt to railroad Kyle Rittenhouse for defending himself in the middle of the violence.

The cities aren’t the only demo up for grabs thanks to crime and non-punishment. According to Gallup, 58% of women worry “a great deal” about crime. That’s ten points higher than men, and likely one reason why Democrats’ usual gender-gap performance has waned of late. Also notably, every age bracket except under-30s have majorities expressing a great deal of concern over crime — and even 42% of the younger voters worry a great deal about it too.

The overall percentage of those worried either somewhat or a great deal is the highest in six years — and in fact the highest in 14 years too. The percentage of those greatly worried is higher ties the highest level in the past 20 years, also set in 2016:

What’s notable about the links to 2016 and then to 2006-8 is that all of these were correlated to more-contentious-than-usual election cycles. All of these have one point in common, which is that it pushed the party in power out of at least one of its positions — House, Senate, and/or the White House. Why? Because like economic conditions, fear of crime is a constant lived experience. Immigration might stir passionate politics, but crime and bad economies grind down on people in relentless ways. Furthermore, it’s not clear what prompted those spikes of concern in those cycles; it’s very possible that dissatisfaction with the direction of the country drove the perception that crime was more of a worry. It might not prove causation, but the correlation is certainly interesting nonetheless.

In this cycle, though, there’s no mistaking why voters have heightened concerns about crime. It’s a rational response to massive increases in crime as well as the perception that one party refuses to take it seriously. And it certainly looks like we can expect a pretty close correlation to another change in party power as a result.