Despite double-digit percentage decreases in U.S. violent and property crime rates since 2008, most voters say crime has gotten worse during that span, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. The disconnect is nothing new; Americans’ perceptions of crime are often at odds with data. Leading up to Election Day, a majority (57%) of those who had voted or planned to vote said crime has gotten worse since 2008. Almost eight-in-10 voters who supported President-elect Donald Trump (78%) said this, as did 37% of backers of Democrat Hillary Clinton. Just 5% of pro-Trump voters and a quarter of Clinton supporters said crime has gotten better since 2008, according to the survey of 3,788 adults conducted Oct. 25-Nov. 8.
Official government crime statistics paint a strikingly different picture. Between 2008 and 2015, U.S. violent crime and property crime rates fell 19% and 23%, respectively, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program. The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ annual crime report showed that violent crime and property crime rates fell 26% and 22%, respectively, between 2008 and 2015. So what explains the gap between perceptions of crime and the data? For one thing, official government crime statistics lag behind the times. The FBI and BJS didn’t publish their crime reports for 2015 until this fall, meaning they don’t capture recent changes in crime.