Poll Shows Many Fewer Americans Believe Criminal Justice System ‘Not Tough Enough’

By Ruby Chavez

WASHINGTON, D.C.- A recent Gallup Poll shows that many fewer Americans now believe the criminal justice system is “not tough enough” as compared to those polled in 1992 – the poll also shows people would rather put money into measures other than strengthening the police to fight crime.

Only 41 percent – compared to 83 percent in 1992 – of Americans believe the system is not “tough enough” now, which is the lowest on record and less from the last previous reading in 2016.

At the same time, Gallup said there’s been a major “uptick” of seven points of people who believe the system is “too tough,” about 21 percent. Those who think the system is “about right” remains at 35 percent.

So, in short, the majority of Americans, 56 percent, believe the system is about right or too tough.

Since 1992, Gallup has asked five times when public perceptions of national and local crime rates were at or near their highest points, a moderate decrease in percentage with the opinion of not tough enough and increases in the percentages explaining it is too tough or about right.

In the United States, these changes coincide with declines in crime rates.

According to Gallup’s 2020 Confidence in Institutions poll, confidence in the police fell to a record-low level. There has been a decline in confidence in the police following several high profile deaths of Black Americans by police officers such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks.

There’s a 58 percent majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who say the criminal justice system is not tough enough. About 25 percent of this view has been shared by less than half as many Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents – in that latter group, 37 percent think the system is about right and 35 percent says it is too tough.

White Americans general believe the justice system is not tough enough, with 40 percent of non-white adults think it is right and the remaining 26 percent believe the system it is too tough.

Americans across the four party and racial subgroups have become significantly less likely to say the criminal justice system is not tough enough.

There are two options for approaches to lowering crime in the United States.

More Americans prefer putting money and effort into addressing social and economic problems, with 63 percent supporting drug addiction, homelessness and mental health programs, instead of putting money and effort into making more improvements to law enforcement (34 percent).

Almost 9 in 10 Democrats and Democratic leaners want to focus on social and economic problems. While Republicans and Republican leaners prefer strengthening law enforcement.

Respectively, 88 percent and 69 percent, Americans who think that the criminal justice system is too tough or about right in its handling of crime strongly want to focus on putting money and effort into tackling social and economic problems to cut the crime rate, while 45 percent of Americans do not think the system is tough enough in its handling of crime and 53 percent of the group supports strengthening law enforcement.

The recent Gallup polling shows that Americans favor a number of reforms to policing in the U.S., and that the public should put money and effort into addressing social and economic problems that may lead to crime over strengthening the law enforcement.

Ruby Chavez is a graduating senior at California State University Sacramento majoring in Criminal Justice and minoring in Sociology. She is from Visalia, California

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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