Most Americans think we need to be tougher on crime – do we?

Gavel on Newspaper headline. Criminal law concept
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Most Americans think that the U.S. criminal justice system isn’t tough enough on crime, according to a new poll. Are they right?

Gallup results released Thursday showed that 58% of participants think the justice system should be tougher on crime. This is a big change from 2020, when a record low of 41% said the same thing. That year, the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others – as well as protests around the globe – brought new attention to police brutality issues in the U.S., particularly violence against Black Americans.

This year, only 14% of Gallup poll respondents said the U.S. criminal justice system is too tough and 26% said they think it is about right.

Republicans and Republican-leaning independents have consistently called for the criminal justice system to be tougher since Gallup began asking about it in 1992, said a press release. Views from Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents have been less consistent, ranging from 25% to 65%.

“In the current survey, three-quarters of Republicans think the criminal justice system is not tough enough, 16% say it is about right, and 7% believe it is too tough,” said Gallup. “Democrats are more divided in their views, with a 42% plurality saying it is not tough enough, 35% about right and 20% too tough.”

When broken down into white and person of color categories, 63% of white survey respondents said the system isn’t tough enough, while nearly half (49%) of the people of color demographic group said the same. Just 12% of white respondents said the system is too tough, compared to 20% of people of color.

While many Americans believe we need to be tougher on crime, Federal Bureau of Investigation data from 2022 that was released last month showed that violent crime in the U.S. decreased by 1.7% last year.

Murder and non-negligent manslaughter were down 6.1% compared to 2021 estimates and the number of offenses in the rape category dropped by 5.4%. Aggravated assault dropped by 1.1%. At the same time, robbery did increase by around 1.3% nationally.

For more information on robberies such as smash-and-grab-crimes, check out Audacy’s On Deadline Podcast coverage of the subject from this summer.

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