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The Crime Rate Perception Gap

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The Crime Rate Perception Gap

The Crime Rate Perception Gap

There’s a persistent belief across America that crime is on the rise.

Since the late 1980s, Gallup has been polling people on their perception of crime in the United States, and consistently, the majority of respondents indicate that they see crime as becoming more prevalent. As well, a recent poll showed that more than two-thirds of Americans feel that today’s youth are less safe from crime and harm than the previous generation.

Even the highest ranking members of the government have been suggesting that the country is in the throes of a crime wave.

We have a crime problem. […] this is a dangerous permanent trend that places the health and safety of the American people at risk.

— Jeff Sessions, Former Attorney General

Is crime actually more prevalent in society? Today’s graphic, amalgamating crime rate data from the FBI, shows a very different reality.

Data vs Perception

In the early ’90s, crime in the U.S. was an undeniable concern – particularly in struggling urban centers. The country’s murder rate was nearly double what it is today, and statistics for all types of crime were through the roof.

Since that era, crime rates in the United States have undergone a remarkably steady decline, but public perception has been slow to catch up. In a 2016 survey, 57% of registered voters said crime in the U.S. had gotten worse since 2008, despite crime rates declining by double-digit percentages during that time period.

There are many theories as to why crime rates took such a dramatic U-turn, and while that matter is still a subject for debate, there’s clear data on who is and isn’t being arrested.

Are Millennials Killing Crime?

Media outlets have accused millennials of the killing off everything from department stores to commuting by car, but there’s another behavior this generation is eschewing as well – criminality.

Compared to previous generations, people under the age of 39 are simply being arrested in smaller numbers. In fact, much of the decline in overall crime can be attributed to people in this younger age bracket. In contrast, the arrest rate for older Americans actually rose slightly.

Arrests by Age Group

There’s no telling whether the overall trend will continue.

In fact, the most recent data shows that the murder rate has ticked up ever-so-slightly in recent years, while violent and property crimes continue to be on the decline.

A Global Perspective

Perceptions of increasing criminality are echoed in many other developed economies as well. From Italy to South Korea, the prevailing sentiment is that youth are living in a society that is less safe than in previous generations.

global crime perceptions

As the poll above demonstrates, perception gaps exist in somewhat unexpected places.

In Sweden, where violent crime is actually increasing, 53% of people believe that crime will be worse for today’s youth. Contrast that with Australia, where crime rates have declined in a similar pattern as in the United States – yet, more than two-thirds of Aussie respondents believe that crime will be worse for today’s youth.

One significant counterpoint to this trend is China, where respondents felt that crime was less severe today than in the past.

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Countries

Charted: The Number of Democracies Globally

How many democracies does the world have? This visual shows the change since 1945 and the top nations becoming more (and less) democratic.

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Charted: The Number of Democracies Globally

The end of World War II in 1945 was a turning point for democracies around the world.

Before this critical turning point in geopolitics, democracies made up only a small number of the world’s countries, both legally and in practice. However, over the course of the next six decades, the number of democratic nations would more than quadruple.

Interestingly, studies have found that this trend has recently reversed as of the 2010s, with democracies and non-democracies now in a deadlock.

In this visualization, Staffan Landin uses data from V-DEM’s Electoral Democratic Index (EDI) to highlight the changing face of global politics over the past two decades and the nations that contributed the most to this change.

The Methodology

V-DEM’s EDI attempts to measure democratic development in a comprehensive way, through the contributions of 3,700 experts from countries around the world.

Instead of relying on each nation’s legally recognized system of government, the EDI analyzes the level of electoral democracy in countries on a range of indicators, including:

  • Free and fair elections
  • Rule of law
  • Alternative sources of information and association
  • Freedom of expression

Countries are assigned a score on a scale from 0 to 1, with higher scores indicating a higher level of democracy. Each is also categorized into four types of functional government, from liberal and electoral democracies to electoral and closed autocracies.

Which Countries Have Declined the Most?

The EDI found that numerous countries around the world saw declines in democracy over the past two decades. Here are the 10 countries that saw the steepest decline in EDI score since 2010:

CountryDemocracy Index (2010)Democracy Index (2022)Points Lost
🇭🇺 Hungary0.800.46-34
🇵🇱 Poland0.890.59-30
🇷🇸 Serbia0.610.34-27
🇹🇷 Türkiye0.550.28-27
🇮🇳 India0.710.44-27
🇲🇱 Mali0.510.25-26
🇹🇭 Thailand0.440.20-24
🇦🇫 Afghanistan0.380.16-22
🇧🇷 Brazil0.880.66-22
🇧🇯 Benin0.640.42-22

Central and Eastern Europe was home to three of the countries seeing the largest declines in democracy. Hungary, Poland, and Serbia lead the table, with Hungary and Serbia in particular dropping below scores of 0.5.

Some of the world’s largest countries by population also decreased significantly, including India and Brazil. Across most of the top 10, the “freedom of expression” indicator was hit particularly hard, with notable increases in media censorship to be found in Afghanistan and Brazil.

Countries Becoming More Democratic

Here are the 10 countries that saw the largest increase in EDI score since 2010:

CountryDemocracy Index (2010)Democracy Index (2022)Points Gained
🇦🇲 Armenia0.340.74+40
🇫🇯 Fiji0.140.40+26
🇬🇲 The Gambia0.250.50+25
🇸🇨 Seychelles0.450.67+22
🇲🇬 Madagascar0.280.48+20
🇹🇳 Tunisia0.400.56+16
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka0.420.57+15
🇬🇼 Guinea-Bissau0.410.56+15
🇲🇩 Moldova0.590.74+15
🇳🇵 Nepal0.460.59+13

Armenia, Fiji, and Seychelles saw significant improvement in the autonomy of their electoral management bodies in the last 10 years. Partially as a result, both Armenia and Seychelles have seen their scores rise above 0.5.

The Gambia also saw great improvement across many election indicators, including the quality of voter registries, vote buying, and election violence. It was one of five African countries to make the top 10 most improved democracies.

With the total number of democracies and non-democracies almost tied over the past four years, it is hard to predict the political atmosphere in the future.

Want to know more about democracy in today’s world? Check out our global breakdown of each country’s democratic score in Mapped: The State of Global Democracy in 2022.
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