Anxiety about Crime

Thirty-seven percent (37%) of Americans say they know a victim of a violent crime, and 19% say they know someone who was murdered. About a quarter (26%) of Americans say they are very or extremely concerned about personally being a victim of a crime, while 37% say they are somewhat concerned, 31% are not too concerned and 6% are not at all concerned.

However, Americans are far less worried about being a crime victim today than they were in the 1990s, which reflects actual declines in federal crime statistics.22 In the early 1990s about half (51%) of Americans said they were “very concerned” about being a victim of a crime, this has since declined to about 26% today.23

While concern about crime has dropped to 26% overall, African Americans and Hispanics (4 in 10) are about twice as likely as white Americans (2 in 10) to fear being crime victims. Furthermore, 41% of African Americans say they know someone who was murdered, about twice the level reported by whites (17%) and Hispanics (15%).

Americans living in cities (34%), with high school educations or less (28%), or earning less than $30,000 annually (31%) are also about twice as likely as rural residents (17%), those with college degrees (19%), or households making over $100,000 a year (19%) to be very concerned about crime.

Anxiety about being a crime victim does not correlate with favorability toward the police, but it may modestly bolster support for increasing police presence. For instance, Americans very concerned about becoming a crime victim are more likely to support adding new police officers to their local departments (41%) than those who are not concerned about crime (26%).


Notes:

22 Despite falling crime rates nationally, some surveys show Americans continue to believe crime is getting worse each year. For instance, Gallup found about two-thirds of Americans say there is more crime in the United States today that there was a year ago, and that this share has increased over time. Even at a local level, about half of Americans say there is “more crime” in their area than there was a year ago. However, although Americans may say crime is higher, this report shows they are less concerned about being a crime victim than in the past, which reflects the fact that crime rates are decreasing. See Justin McCarthy, “Most Americans Still See Crime Up Over Last Year,” Gallup November 21, 2014, http://www.gallup.com/poll/179546/americans-crime-last-year.aspx.

23 This data is compiled from the following surveys, which are available at the Roper Center or from the author: 1988, Gallup/Times Mirror; 1994 and 1995, Princeton Survey Research Associates (PSRA)/Times Mirror; 1996, PSRA/Kaisier Foundation; 1997, PSRA/Pew Research Center; 1999, 2001, 2004, 2006, 2007 PSRA/Pew; 2015 and 2016, YouGov/Cato Institute. Crime statistics compiled from FBI, Uniform Crime Reports, prepared by the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data.


Back to the Table of Contents