Crime has increased in the United States over the last year, according to most Americans in the latest Economist/YouGov poll. Whether people perceive an uptick in crime, and how large they think it has been, varies widely depending on their political party and which TV news channels they are watching.
About three in five U.S. adults say crime in the country has increased over the last year (62%), with 41% perceiving a significant increase (“increased a lot”) and 21% calling it “a little” increase. One in five adults believe crime has remained steady. Just 7% of Americans think that crime has decreased.
Americans who primarily watch Fox News are especially likely to say that crime has increased “a lot” in the U.S. over the past year. Two-thirds of individuals (65%) who watch Fox News most among cable news networks say that the national increase in crime has been significant, while another 12% say crime has “increased a little.” In contrast, only one-quarter of people who watch CNN or MSNBC most say that crime has increased “a lot.”
Which view of crime trends most closest matches reality is hard to say. It largely depends on what type of crime is being considered, as well as the availability of current stats. In 2020, murders increased by 29% from 2019, violent crime was up by 5%, and overall major crimes fell by 4% or 5%, according to a recent FBI report. Data for 2021 is sparser, but based on a New York Times sampling of city police departments, murder is up by 10% from the same period in 2020.
Republicans are much more likely than Independents and Democrats to say that crime has increased a lot over the last year. Republicans who watch Fox News as their primary cable news source are especially likely to say crime has increased a lot (77%) or a little (8%) in the last year. By comparison, Republicans who either mainly watch a different cable news channel or no cable news at all are less likely to say crime has increased a lot (53%). One-quarter of this group (24%) say crime has increased a little.
Republicans also are more likely to perceive a rise in the number of violent crimes — such as homicide or sexual assault — in the past 12 months compared to 10 years ago. Three-quarters of Republicans (76%) say the number is much higher than it was a decade ago, compared to 59% of Independents and 58% of Democrats. (The FBI’s latest violent crime data suggests the number of incidents has changed little from a decade ago.)
There is more consensus about people’s local communities. Democrats (45%) and Independents (45%) are equally likely to say crime has increased a lot or a little where they live. About half of Republicans (52%) say the same. Most Fox News viewers (55%) see a local rise in crime, while MSNBC and CNN viewers are less likely to perceive a spike.
Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 U.S. adult citizens interviewed online between September 18 - 21, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. citizens. The margin of error is approximately 2.9% for the overall sample.