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Pew Survey: Crime and Immigration Among Americans' Top Priorities

Photo Courtesy: Official White House Website

Though the economy remains at the top of most Americans' minds, with 73% of Americans saying that it should be a top priority, more than half of Americans still see crime as a top priority, according to a new Pew Research Center report, released before Thursday's State of the Union address. Crime reduction ranked as the seventh-highest item on Pew's list, with 58% of Americans saying that it should be a top priority. Other law-enforcement-related issues that made the list included “reducing availability of illegal drugs,” which 55% of those surveyed saw as a top priority and “dealing with immigration,” which 57% saw as a top issue.

The proportion of people who believe that crime and terrorism are top concerns is growing. Republicans in particular have rising concerns about terrorism, 76% versus 65% last year. Democrats’ concerns have risen slightly about terrorism, 55% said it should be a top priority compared to 51% last year. Similarly, while 58% percent of Americans who told Pew this year that crime-reduction should be a top priority, 68% of Republicans felt that way, compared with 47% of Democrats, Pew found.

Biden addressed those concerns in his Thursday-evening speech. “To state the obvious, all Americans deserve the freedom to be safe, and America is safer today than when I took office,” he said. “Through my American Rescue Plan, which every Republican voted against, I might add, we made the largest investment in public safety ever.” Last year, he noted, the nation’s murder rate “saw the sharpest decrease in history” and that violent crime “fell to one of its lowest levels in more than 50 years.” He also pledged more support for communities fighting crime, domestic violence and gun violence.

To address immigration, clearly a hot-button issue, Biden pushed Republicans to pass immigration reforms. “That bipartisan deal would hire 1,500 more security agents and officers, 100 more immigration judges to help tackle the backload of two million cases, 4,300 more asylum officers and new policies so they can resolve cases in six months instead of six years now,” he said.

Pew found that the share of people prioritizing immigration has increased 18 points since Biden took office, a increase “due almost entirely to growing concern among Republicans,” the Pew analysis notes. Where 39% of Republicans saw it as a top priority in 2021, 76% now do; during the same time period, the proportion of Democrats who cite immigration as a priority has remained stable. According to a Pew January survey on the topic, eight-in-ten U.S. adults say that the federal government is doing a bad job dealing with the large number of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, including 45% who say it’s doing a very bad job. Democrats and Republicans alike fault the federal government for its performance on the border: 89% and 73%, respectively, say that it’s doing a bad job.

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