Graph depicting Actual vs. Perceived Violent Crime Rate
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Description: The green line represents the actual violent crime rate in the United States and the orange line represents the percentage of Americans who worry about violence and crime "a great deal."

Sources: FBI   FBI   FBI   Gallup  

Data: Excel

Last updated: July 23, 2016


The Fear Mongering About Violent Crime is not Based on Reality

Discussion: Violent crime was more than twice as common in the early 1990s as it is today. The highest violent crime rate the U.S. has ever posted was in 1991 when it reached 758 violent crimes per 100,000 people. Today, we only have 367 violent crimes per 100,000. That is the lowest violent crime rate the U.S. has had since 1970.

Public perception of the level of violent crime, however, has remained high throughout and has drastically spiked over the past year. At present, 53% of Americans personally worry about crime and violence "a great deal." Another 26% of Americans worry about crime and violence "a fair amount." Only 22% worry about crime and violence "only a little" or "not at all."

The most obvious explanation for the disconnect between the perceived level of crime and the actual level of crime is that media coverage of violence does not track with the actual level of crime. The number of stories the news media presents about violent crime is presumably driven more by the number of stories about violent crime that viewers are willing to tune in for than it is driven by the actual incidence of violent crime.

However, the massive spike in fears about crime in 2016 may also be a product of the extreme fear mongering that is driving the campaign of Donald Trump. For example, during his acceptance speech at the Republican convention, Trump repeatedly made false or distorted claims about the level of crime in the United States.

See more graphs about: Polls   Well-being  

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