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John Jay Nationwide Survey On Election-Year 2007 Attitudes Towards Crime and Looking Ahead to 2008


In late November, 2007, the Center on Media, Crime and Justice commissioned a nationwide poll on current public attitudes towards crime, timed for release at the 3rd annual Harry F. Guggenheim Symposium on crime and politics in America in December, 2007. The survey, conducted by Global Strategies Group, polled a representative sample of 1,000 registered voters broken down geographically and demographically. Among the noteworthy findings, the survey found that more than half of the respondents – 53% — considered crime a serious problem as pressing as the economy and health care. Forty-three per cent said they wanted the media to concentrate less on crimes committed, and more about prevention. Thirty-seven percent said elected officials spend too little time discussing this issue. Only 6 % of participants identified illegal immigration as the primary reason for crime; 33% blamed drugs and alcohol; and 17% blamed poverty. In contrast to hawkish public attitudes towards crime and enforcement in previous decades, fewer respondents targeted “soft judges” or “lax sentencing” rules. “Our Center on Media, Crime & Justice conducted this poll , in part, to focus attention on the public’s perception of crime and to insure that the public’s concerns are heard and addressed by our elected officials and the media,” said John Jay College President Jeremy Travis. “If you’ve watched the presidential debates over the past few months, you’re hard-pressed to hear a discourse on crime. You hear a lot about security and terrorism – incredibly important issues, to be sure – but not about crime. Thinking back to past campaign seasons, this is a fairly significant change.”

Full report on the survey and its methodology.
In addition to the survey, the Center on Media, Crime and Justice also commissioned five analytical reports on key segments of the survey results . The reports were conducted by selected journalists and graduate students/PhD candidates at John Jay College, and should serve as helpful background material for journalists and academics, as well as helpful pointers for the interpretation of statistical data. The work of the John Jay Poll Teams was led by James P. Lynch, Distinguished Professor at John Jay College. The survey and poll analyses were supported by grants from the Open Society Institute and the Harry F. Guggenheim Foundation.

Report No. 1 by Anna Crayton of John Jay College and Paul Glickman news director of KPCC-FM , Los Angeles, investigated the demographics of general crime and public policy issues, including a finding that whites were more likely than African-Americans and Hispanics to consider crime reduction a key issue in the 2008 elections. Report No. 2 by Alissa Ackerman of John Jay College and Frank Stoltze, a reporter for KPCC Los Angeles, compared the poll results to general perceptions of the causes of crime and violence among different ethnic groups and registered voters. Despite the nationwide decline in crime figures, urban residents in particular are more likely to worry about personal security.

In Report No. 3, Alicia Caldwell of the Associated Press in El Paso, and Meghan Sacks of John Jay College, analyzed survey data relating to immigrants and crime, and found a disconnect between public attitudes and reality. Crime as a political issue filtered through the media was investigated by Nanci Wilson of KEYE-TV of Austin, Texas and Seokhee Yoon in Report No. 4. Finally, Tasha Youstin of John Jay provides an overview and a general statistical analysis of the survey results in Report No. 5.

Citations of all statistical material and analysis should be credited to the Center on Media, Crime & Justice at John Jay College.