Though polls show voters’ biggest concerns are the economy and inflation, many Americans, especially conservative voters but also moderates and liberals ,say they are gripped by worries over crime and disorder. Even though national crime trends are mixed, these voters have seen reports of homicide spikes in places like Memphis, Milwaukee, Albuquerque and Jacksonville, Fl., and have heard from friends and neighbors who have been victims of car thefts or muggings, reports the New York Times. Examples: Debra Kowalski, a 49-year-old nurse in Bucks County, Pa., has been pleading with her elderly parents to move out of Philadelphia, especially after a delivery driver was shot and killed near their home. In Scottsdale, Az., Michael Navas, a landscape contractor, believes “third-class” people are destroying the city with graffiti and burglaries. In Menomonee Falls, Wi., Deb Whittenberger, 66, wants a Ring doorbell camera to assuage her gnawing fears of break-ins in her suburban town. Her main motivating issues in this year’s election are “crime, security, safety.”
In many cases, anxieties stem not from experiencing serious crime, but from seeing homeless encampments, or finding a syringe or human waste on the sidewalk, or reading accounts in their neighborhood social networks of vandalism on a local bike path. These concerns are benefiting Republican candidates, who have bluntly blamed Democratic elected officials for a surge in violent crime in many cities that began during the pandemic and has yet to subside. Conservative news outlets like Fox have focused heavily on crime, as has local TV news. Voters criticized liberals’ efforts to eliminate cash bail, decriminalize marijuana and decrease funding for police departments, even if those policies have not been put in place where they live. Many independent voters have warmed to Republican candidates who are emphasizing crime and public safety in their closing messages before Election Day. Republican plans to curb crime focus on hiring more police officers and tightening border security. Most of the party’s candidates focus far more on assailing progressive criminal justice policies or the “defund the police” movement, which most Democratic candidates have rejected.