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.

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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