Washington, DC, October 23, 2021
A new Axios-Ipsos poll finds that Americans’ concern about crime is high, but for most it is a more abstract than immediate concern. For instance, three-quarters of Americans say they feel mostly or very safe when out in their communities, and among that one-quarter who report feeling less safe, only half cite crime as a major reason why (or about one in eight Americans). However, a majority of Americans feel violent crime is on the rise since last year – which is broadly accurate – but also feel it is higher than observed 30 years ago – which is incorrect. Potentially because concerns about crime are more abstract for most people, opinions about what to do about crime tend to fall along lines of national politics. Democrats broadly support gun control and investment in social services while Republicans support a more armed populace and more spending on police.
1. Majorities of Americans believe (correctly) that violent crime has increased this year compared to last year and (incorrectly) compared to the early 1990s. Fewer feel this impact locally, particularly those in suburban and rural areas, and largely feel safe when in their community.
- More than six in ten Americans (61%) believe violent crime is up since last year and more than half (58%) believe violent crime is up compared to the early 1990s.
- Fewer (31%), believe crime is up in their community and nearly three quarters (72%) feel safe when they are out — up from 56% in September of 2020.
- The picture is slightly different for urban residents, where crime has increased the most. Four in ten urbanites believe crime is up in their community, compared to about a quarter of those that live in suburban (27%) or rural areas (27%). Similarly, Americans in urban areas are less likely to feel safe in their community (65%) than those in suburban (75%) and rural (79%) areas.
2. Among the minority of Americans who do not feel safe in their community, crime surpasses COVID-19 as the primary source, leading some Americans to purchase or consider purchasing a gun.
- More than half (55%) of Americans who do not feel safe in their community cite crime as a cause, up from 45% in September 2020, while half blame COVID-19 compared to 63% last year.
- Roughly one in ten (9%) Americans purchased a gun in the past year. This share is larger among those who already owned a gun, with 23% saying they bought another.
- Concerns over violent crime have caused the highest share (39%) of Americans to purchase or consider purchasing a gun in the past year. However, partisan differences exist:
- Republicans are more likely to cite the election of Joe Biden (45%) and concerns over Black Lives Matter (32%) than Democrats (8% and 15%, respectively) and Independents (19% and 22%, respectively).
- Democrats, on the other hand, are more likely to cite concerns over racism and white nationalism (24%) than Republicans (16%) — led by drastically different perceptions among Black (41%) and Hispanic (25%) Americans compared to white Americans (15%).
3. There is some consensus on what steps could reduce gun violence and violent crime in the U.S.
- Just over six in ten (61%) Americans believe tighter gun laws would have an impact.
- A large majority believe increased funding to police (70%) would curb gun violence and violent crime, while nearly as many (63%) also believe diverting police budget to community policing and social services would do this.
- Over two thirds (68%) believe increased funding to social safety net programs would have an impact on combatting violent crime.
4. However, partisanship is central to what and who Americans believe is the cause of increased violent crime and which solutions would be most impactful.
- Majorities of Republicans say Democrats in Congress (59%), reduced police funding (58%), and President Joe Biden (54%) are most responsible for increases in violent crime.
- Meanwhile, majorities of Democrats blame loose gun laws (54%) and rising gun sales (52%).
- When it comes to solutions, a majority of Republicans believe increased police funding (59%) would have a major impact on reducing violent crime compared to roughly a third of Democrats (31%).
- Conversely, a majority of Democrats (63%) think tighter gun control regulations and increased funding to social programs that combat poverty (54%) would have a major impact on reducing violent crime — compared to 16% and 18% of Republicans, respectively.
- When asked which statement Americans agree with more: spending more on police and letting police officers do their job as they see fit or shifting some funding to social services, getting guns off the street, and de-militarizing policing, 77% of Republicans agree with the former while 71% of Democrats agree with the latter. Independents are roughly divided at 39% and 40%, respectively.
About the Study
This Axios/Ipsos poll was conducted October 14th to October 20nd, 2021, by Ipsos using our KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,246 general population adults age 18 or older. The sample includes 310 Republicans, 407 Democrats, and 425 Independents.
The survey was conducted using KnowledgePanel, the largest and most well-established online probability-based panel that is representative of the adult US population. Our recruitment process employs a scientifically developed addressed-based sampling methodology using the latest Delivery Sequence File of the USPS – a database with full coverage of all delivery points in the US. Households are randomly sampled from all available households in the U.S. All persons in selected households are invited to join and participate in KnowledgePanel. Ipsos provides selected households that do not already have internet access a tablet and internet connection at no cost to them. Those who join the panel and who are selected to participate in a survey are sent a unique password-protected log-in used to complete surveys online. As a result of our recruitment and sampling methods, samples from KnowledgePanel cover all households regardless of their phone or internet status and findings can be reported with a margin of sampling error and projected to the general population.
The study was conducted in English and Spanish. The data were weighted to adjust for gender by age, race/ethnicity, education, Census region, metropolitan status and household income. The demographic benchmarks came from 2019 American Community Survey (ACS) from the US Census Bureau. The weighting categories were as follows:
- Gender (Male, Female) by Age (18–29, 30–44, 45–59, and 60+)
- Race/Hispanic Ethnicity (White Non-Hispanic, Black Non-Hispanic, Other or 2+ Races Non-Hispanic, Hispanic)
- Education (High School graduate or less, Some College, Bachelor and beyond)
- Census Region (Northeast, Midwest, South, West)
- Metropolitan status (Metro, non-Metro)
- Household Income (Under $25,000, $25,000-$49,999, $50,000-$74,999, $75,000-$99,999, $100,000-$149,999, $150,000+)
The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.0 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 5.9 percentage points for Republicans, 5.2 percentage points for Democrats, and 5.0 percentage points for Independents at the 95% confidence level. The margin of sampling error takes into account the design effect, which was 1.13 for all adults, 1.11 for Republicans, 1.16 for Democrats, and 1.12 for Independents. The margin of sampling error is higher and varies for results based on sub-samples. In our reporting of the findings, percentage points are rounded off to the nearest whole number. As a result, percentages in a given table column may total slightly higher or lower than 100%. In questions that permit multiple responses, columns may total substantially more than 100%, depending on the number of different responses offered by each respondent.
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