The polls'trends: Americans' changing views on crime and punishment

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39 Scopus citations


Despite a decline in crime rates, the size of America's criminal justice system has continued to expand in both expenditures and the number of citizens under correctional supervision. Polls examined here show that the public viewed national crime as declining since the 1990s, while viewing local crime rates as stable. Moreover, the polls show that public support for "get tough" crime policies, once seen as unwavering, has declined substantially. The decline in support occurred across a range of policies, from judicial sentencing to the death penalty to increasing expenditures for law enforcement agencies. Finally, polls show fluctuations in public views regarding which political party was better suited to deal with crime. Overall, these data illustrate that leaders now have the opportunity to move policy in a less punitive direction and that no single party has ownership over the issue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1006-1031
Number of pages26
JournalPublic Opinion Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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