Monday, February 25, 2008

crime and partisanship, 2008

brad sends word of topline results for a december 2007 crime poll. the research was conducted by third way, with the report authored by jim kessler, rachel laser, michael earls, and nikki yamashiro.

the upshot is that americans still see crime as a very serious issue, they are split about equally with regard to whether democrats or republicans would best respond to crime, and they favor (compulsory) rehabilitation programs. here's the full text:

Third Way Crime Poll -- Topline Highlights

These are the highlights of a 1,139 person survey conducted by Cooper & Secrest Associates, December 15–19, 2007 on voter attitudes toward crime.

Americans View Crime as a Resurgent Threat
Although, crime does not rival the economy or Iraq as a front burner issue, there are clear indications that the public is becoming more concerned about the issue.
• 57% rate crime as a “very serious” issue
• By a 56-11% margin, the public believes there is more crime rather than less crime in America than one year ago
• 78% say that children are more vulnerable to crime than ten years ago
• By a 69-19% margin, Americans feel that crime is more of a threat to their own safety than terrorism

Most Americans Are Non-Ideological Pragmatists on Crime
Our research identified three distinct groups of Americans on the crime issue. The most prominent was the 55% of Americans whom we call “Solve-the-Problem” voters. They are non-ideological pragmatists who are open to a very active government role in crime prevention and intervention if properly designed and framed to emphasize personal responsibility. These voters are evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans and are dispersed evenly throughout the country. The remaining two groups are far more ideological. “Throw-the-Book” voters comprise a small minority of the population and oppose any efforts at changing criminal behavior beyond enforcement and prison. They are overwhelmingly conservative. “Read-a-Book” voters believe wholeheartedly in rehabilitation and are far more likely to be liberal than the general population. They rank crime lower as an issue and see crime as slightly less of a threat to themselves.

Democrats and Republicans are at Parity on the Crime Issue
When asked who would do a better job of “working to reduce crime,” 33% chose Democrats, 31% chose Republicans, and 36% volunteered “not sure” or “neither party.” Compared to the 1970s and 80s, when the country trusted only conservatives to combat crime, our polling indicates that there has been a significant shift in public opinion towards parity. However, Americans still have distinct preconceptions about both parties’ approaches to the issue. They see Democrats as too quick to blame crime on circumstances, like bad schools, broken families, and dysfunctional neighborhoods. They see Republicans as holding individuals responsible for their own actions, but straying too far towards punitive sentencing for crime.

Voters Favor Intervention Efforts to Reduce Crime
There is strong support for programs aimed at reducing crime, but those designed to make people improve and take responsibility scored the best. For example, when prison rehabilitation programs were defined as a requirement of, not a benefit for, prisoners—support soared. Specifically, a policy forcing prisoners “to work, get an education, and learn skills because they need to be productive when they get out” scored 36-points higher (with 91% approval) than one providing prisoners who have “difficult family, economic or mental health circumstances” with the “proper counseling and training they need to be rehabilitated.”

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