The Trace — Polls Signal an Opening for Alternative Anti-Violence Strategies

Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun/TNS

Daily Bulletin

by Tom Kutsch
November 30, 2020

What To Know Today
Parsing the polls: Do violence reduction policies need to go beyond gun restrictions to sustain popular support? That’s one possible implication of the latest editions of a pair of Gallup surveys — the first showing majority support for stricter gun laws at its lowest level in four years (a trend in part fueled by record-low Republican backing) and the second finding that just 41 percent of Americans want the justice system to be tougher on crime, less than half the share who felt that way in 1992. Nearly two-thirds of respondents to the latter poll favored addressing social and economic problems over law enforcement-driven approaches.

What’s driving the trendlines? “I would guess both numbers are about fear. Fear of crime has fallen with the declining rate of serious crime, while the public has learned more about the harm that can result from excessive punishment,” said Jeffrey A. Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “Similarly, the NRA and other gun merchants have been using fear of government to sell firearms and impede reforms.”

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