Political candidates are using thousands of ads focusing on violent crime, and most registered voters see the issue as very important in next week's midterm elections.
Federal data paint a complicated picture when it comes to recent changes in the violent crime rate, reports the Pew Research Center.
About six-in-ten registered voters say violent crime is very important when making their decision about who to vote for. Violent crime ranks alongside energy policy and health care in perceived importance as a midterm issue, but far below the economy.
Roughly three-quarters of Republican and GOP-leaning registered voters say violent crime is very important to their vote, compared with around half of Democratic or Democratic-leaning registered voters.
Conservative Republicans are especially focused on the issue: About eight-in-ten see violent crime as very important to their vote, compared with 63 percent of moderate or liberal Republican voters, 65 percent of moderate or conservative Democratic voters and only about a third of liberal Democratic voters.
Black voters are particularly likely to say violent crime is a very important midterm issue. Some 81 percent of Black registered voters say violent crime is very important to their midterm vote, compared with 65 percent of Hispanic and 56 percent of white voters.
An annual Bureau of Justice Statistics survey shows no recent increase in the U.S. violent crime rate. In 2021, there were 16.5 violent crimes for every 1,000 Americans ages 12 and older. That was statistically unchanged from the year before, below pre-pandemic levels and far below the rates recorded in the 1990s.
For each of the four violent crime types tracked in the survey – simple assault, aggravated assault, robbery and rape/sexual assault – there was no statistically significant increase either in 2020 or 2021.
The survey does not track murder because it is based on interviews with surviving crime victims.
The FBI also estimates that there was no increase in the violent crime rate in 2021. The FBI did report an increase in the violent crime rate between 2019 and 2020.
While the total U.S. violent crime rate does not appear to have increased murder did rise significantly during the pandemic. Both the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a roughly 30 percent in the U.S. murder rate between 2019 and 2020, marking one of the largest year-over-year increases ever recorded.
The latest data, as well as provisional data from the CDC, suggest that murders continued to rise in 2021. Still, murder remains the least common type of violent crime overall.
The Major Cities Chiefs Association estimates that robberies and aggravated assaults increased in the first six months of this year compared with the same period the year before.
Voters also might be thinking of murder totals rather than the violent crime rate, which is an aggregate measure that includes several different crime types, such as assault and robbery.