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Jacksonians rising
Americans Deeply Concerned About Crime and Violence

Here’s one possible reason, via Gallup, that criminal justice reform legislation has stalled in the Senate:

Americans’ level of concern about crime and violence is at its highest point in 15 years. Fifty-three percent of U.S. adults say they personally worry “a great deal” about crime and violence, an increase of 14 percentage points since 2014. This figure is the highest Gallup has measured since March 2001.

The simplest explanation is that violent crime really did tick upward, at least in many major cities, over the past year. However, overall victimization rates remain low (higher than 2013 and 2014, but roughly the same as they were in 2012), and as one sociologist told Time magazine, “historically, there’s a very weak relationship between actual crime and fear of crime.”

Look closer, and the poll provides more potential clues about the provenance of the spike: It is most acute among whites, Republicans, those making less than $75,000 per year those without a college degree. (In fact, there was virtually no change in concern about crime among college graduates between 2014 and 2016). In other words, it seems that the growing anxiety is concentrated among the age-old American constituency we call the Jacksonians—a group that tends to respond especially strongly to threats of rule-breaking and disorder, and whose consciousness has been activated with particular force in the last 12 months.

Another possible factor: For years, Americans have been reporting a declining faith in major mediating institutions—from political parties to the media to the legal system—across the board. As many pundits have observed, the tone of the 2016 election may reflect a sense that traditional political norms and structures are on their last legs. It’s easy to see how grim pessimism about the sustainability of the current political order could combine with rising Jacksonian sentiment and a modest but real uptick in the urban murder rate to produce a sense—accurate or not—that more crime, violence, and disorder is around the corner.

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  • Jim__L

    Heckuva job, Barry.

  • Matt_Thullen

    I suspect that releasing a lot of non-violent inmates over the past few years (mostly in California, but I believe this is happening in other states) has led to a noticeable increase in non-violent crime. People aren’t dumb, and they understand that when many of their friends and co-workers have had houses and cars broken into, the overall fear of crime is going to go up.

    • Pait

      That is precisely the opposite of what the data says – that overall crime decreased, and that some violent crime indicators increased significantly in a few cities but staid low in most places.

      • Matt_Thullen

        If “victimization rates” refers to all crime, then you are correct. I read that (within the context of the article) as referring to violent crime.

        • Pait

          I think you are mixing things up a little. Read again, and follow the links.

          Overall crime is down, and murder rates ticket up, but mostly because of increase concentrated in a few cities – in most of the country it didn’t go up either.

  • Pete

    Whether it’s home here or the world in general, it seems the center can’t hold.

    • Curt A.

      It does seem that way. It fell apart in New York City in the 1960s and 70s when my wife and I lived there. NYC was a largely conservative Democrat ( there is a term you never see anymore ) city, that also had about 25% Republican voters. Most New Yorkers were New Deal supporters but very strong on national defense and tough on crime. We have not lived there for years but it seems the city is now very very Left of center ensconsed in PC ism where open honest debate does not seem to be taking place.

  • Andrew Allison

    ” . . . violent crime really did tick upward, at least in many major cities, over the past year.”, a.k.a. the Ferguson effect.

    • Arkeygeezer

      Most of the uptick occurred in the black communities, and involved domestic violence, drug deals gone bad, and gang killings of young black men. Black lives matter, but not apparently to blacks.

      • Beauceron

        BLM is not about saving black lives. It’s about intimidating white people into paying for more privileges for blacks.

    • Jmaci

      Right. And yet the residents of these major cities refuse to vote for reform politicians. Weird.

  • Frank Natoli

    No mention of the nights of rioting in Ferguson, over what everyone knew was a violent black man who tried to kill a white cop? Or the nights of rioting in Baltimore, over what everyone soon learned was a violent, drug crazed and switchblade carrying black man who fought the cops, three black and three white, all the way to the lockup after being arrested? Or a President who reserved the highest law enforcement position in the country for black only candidates, the first who pronounced that “his people” were his priority, who saw all law enforcement through racist glasses? Or when the husband of the Democrat Presidential candidate publicly notes that some 5,000 black people murdered by other black people each year was something strangely swept under the rug? How odd!

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Gun sales have broken records for every month in the last year. Cops are being deliberately murdered by a violent group of Racist Blacks, who see Racism everywhere they look because they themselves are Racist.

    There’s a bit of sarcasm going around on the web that demonstrates what people are feeling.

    “My favorite part about the Obama era is all the racial healing.”

  • charlesrwilliams

    Upper middle class people easily protect themselves from the Ferguson effect. Lower middle class people cannot and if you don’t buy the BlackLivesMatter nonsense and you cannot isolate your family from crime, the Ferguson effect is a real threat.

  • FriendlyGoat

    The last sentence poses its own question about Jacksonian sentiment—–is it “accurate or not”? Until the Jacksonians decide what their actual platform is and articulate it in such a way that it refutes the observation that it mostly clings to guns and religion for lack of a better idea, the Jacksonians are a lot like a fireworks stand at the cigar smokers’ convention. Boom from any spark, doesn’t matter what spark.

  • White Knight Leo

    Americans purchased enough firearms on Black Friday 2015 to re-arm the Marine Corps (not an exaggeration), plus a little extra. At the time I was a little surprised – I’m a gun owner, but I’ve also been following crime stats, and violent crime is pretty far down from the 1993 peak. I’m no longer surprised.

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