Americans’ views of how the criminal justice system is handling crime have shifted considerably in the past 13 years, says a new Gallup survey. Some 45 percent say the justice system is “not tough enough,” down from 65 percent in 2003. Americans are more likely than they have been in three previous polls to describe the justice system’s approach as “about right” (35 percent) or “too tough” (14 percent). Near the height of modern-day crime totals, in 1992, 83 percent said they believed the system was not tough enough.
Views on the subject vary across racial and political party lines. Most Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say the system is “not tough enough” (65 percent), with most of the rest describing it as “about right” (30 percent). Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are most likely to say the system is “about right” (42 percent), with the rest dividing about evenly between saying it is “too tough” (22 percent) or “not tough enough” (29 percent). Against a backdrop of proposals in Congress to reform drug sentencing, 38 percent of U.S. adults describe guidelines for sentencing of people convicted of routine drug crimes as “too tough.” A slightly smaller percentage say they are “not tough enough” (34 percent), while a quarter say they are “about right” (25 percent).