If It Bleeds It … Gets Ignored?

Pew Research released a note today about perceptions of crime in the US, most of it based on Gallup poll numbers. The main takeaway is well known: crime is way down over the past couple of decades but people still think crime is going up. As I was looking at the raw data, though, something else struck me that I hadn’t noticed before:

These two trendlines track each other quite closely, but the USA line is consistently about 25 percentage points higher. In other words, if you ask people about crime in their own neighborhoods, fewer than half think it’s going up. But if you ask them about crime in the whole country, 60-70 percent think it’s going up.

In one way, this is simply another example of a well-known phenomenon: people almost always think conditions in the country are worse than conditions in their own neighborhoods. Schools are failing, but our schools are pretty good. Congress is horrible, but our rep does a good job. Drugs are rampant, but our town doesn’t have a big problem. Etc.

But I wouldn’t have expected the same result here. Why? Because every time I turn on the local news, it’s wall-to-wall crime for the first ten or fifteen minutes. It’s a wonder there’s anyone alive to still report it. Conversely, national news really doesn’t focus much on crime. Obviously they report on mass shootings and similar things, but it’s a small share of their total reporting compared to local news.

Or is it? And has it changed over the years? Does routine overexposure to local crime news actually make it seem less dangerous? I demand a PhD thesis on this topic.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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