Seven in 10 Americans believe there is more crime in the U.S. now than there was a year ago, up slightly from the 63 percent who said that last year, says Gallup’s annual crime survey, conducted this month. Only 18 percent believe say there is less crime, and 8 percent say the level has stayed the same. Since Gallup first began asking Americans in 1989 about their perceptions of crime, majorities generally have said crime had worsened compared with the previous year, with more than 80 percent holding that view in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Perceptions of greater crime fell over the course of the next decade as actual crime rates dropped, and reached a record low of 41 percent in 2001 after 9/11.
By 2002, though, the figure was back to a majority, and ranged from 53% to 74% in the decade that followed. Government data on actual crime rates this year will not be released until next year, so it is not possible to know whether perceptions of rising crime this year reflect what is currently happening in the U.S. In many large cities, violent crime rates have spiked in 2015, suggesting that national crime figures could be on the rise. News reports of this increased violence may account for the uptick in perceived violence in the latest poll. Americans’ perceptions of crime are not always on par with reality. Despite government data showing declining violent crime rates in the U.S. over the past two decades, majorities of Americans still maintained that crime had increased nationally. Nearly six in 10 Americans (59%) say U.S. crime is an “extremely” or “very” serious problem, up from 55 percent last year.