Are Democrats in denial about increased crime?

AP Photo/John Minchillo

According to a new Economist/YouGov poll, some of them are. The survey found that 64% of Americans say crime has increased nationally during the past twelve months, which is true, but the partisan breakdown of that response reveals that Republicans are far more likely to acknowledge the crime spike than Democrats.

Most people think that crime in the U.S. has increased over the past year, either a lot (40%) or a little (23%). Few (8%) say it’s decreased, and 19% say it’s stayed the same. Republicans are 23 percentage points more likely than Democrats to say crime has increased a lot nationally over the past year. However, both groups are far more likely to say it’s increased than to say it’s decreased.

There is, however, one glaring exception to the Democrats’ reluctance to acknowledge a crime spike. According to YouGov, more Democrats said that “mass shootings” have increased a lot over the past year.

Interestingly enough, however, when survey respondents were asked to offer an explanation for the increase in violent crime, the record number of gun sales going back to 2020 wasn’t seen as a major factor by many respondents.

The idea that “more guns equals more crime” has clearly permeated Democratic ideology, even though it’s flat out wrong, but it doesn’t seem to hold a lot of weight among the electorate at large. “Changes in gun purchases” came in at the bottom of the list of causes that respondents say have contributed “a lot” to the increase in violent crime, and it was the top choice for having no impact at all on the crime rate.

That makes sense, of course. If more guns equated to more crime, then the U.S. crime rate would increase every year. Instead, what we’ve seen is a 30-year decline in violent crime that started in 1991 and came to an abrupt halt in 2020. Yes, there were record numbers of firearms sold that year, but as the YouGov survey indicates, not many people buy into the anti-gun talking points that the crime spike is due to more Americans exercising their Second Amendment rights.

Now, I don’t expect this survey to change Democratic talking points or cause them to reassess their campaign to install an anti-gun politician as head of the ATF, but the poll does offer more evidence that the Democratic response to crime of “we need more gun laws” isn’t resonating with voters this year. Based on the survey’s findings, it looks like most voters pin the blame for the crime spike on the massive protests and civil unrest that began after George Floyd’s death, the resulting hits to police budgets and the staffing shortage seen in many deep-blue cities as officers either retired or took jobs in more police-friendly communities, and the economic turmoil caused by the COVID-related disruptions to our economy.

I can’t disagree, though I would definitely include the near-total shutdown of many court systems for months on end, even though that wasn’t a specific option in the polls.

This survey shows an electorate that’s ready to get tough on crime, not legal gun owners. That’s good news for those of us who don’t believe that we can ban our way to safety by criminalizing our Second Amendment rights, and another big red flag for Democrats as we get closer to the midterms.