Americans have shifted their attitude toward teens who commit violent crimes and how the criminal justice system should treat them: they are now split on whether they should be treated as adults or as juveniles. Two decades ago, a majority of people felt that juveniles aged 14 to 17 who commit serious crimes should be treated the same as adult criminals, according to data from Gallup. Americans are more likely today than in 2000 to believe juveniles who commit violent crimes should receive more lenient treatment in juvenile court (47% in favor vs. 24% against) and less likely now to favor treating them the same as adults (46% in favor vs. 65% against).
The views of Democrats, independents and younger adults have changed more than the opinions of Republicans and older adults. However, all key subgroups show some movement away from believing that violent juvenile offenders should be treated the same as adults. In 2000, the various political party and age subgroups generally held similar views, with between 60% and 68% of each believing juveniles should be treated the same as adults. Majorities of Democrats and adults under age 50 now believe 14- to 17-year-olds who commit violent crimes should get more lenient treatment in a juvenile court, while majorities of Republicans and adults over age 50 believe such teens should be treated the same as adults. Political independents are evenly divided on the issue.