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Social & Policy Issues
Americans' Fears About Robbery and Theft Down in 2015
Social & Policy Issues

Americans' Fears About Robbery and Theft Down in 2015

Story Highlights

  • About four in 10 worry about car or home being broken into
  • One in four worry about muggings, burglaries while they're home
  • Identity theft, credit card hacking top list of crime worries

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' concerns about being robbed in a variety of settings fell over the past year, putting these figures at decade-long lows. They are most frequently worried about their cars being stolen or broken into (40%), or their homes being burglarized when they are not home (39%) -- both are record lows for the 15-year trend. Additionally, they show slightly less concern about more confrontational robberies such as getting mugged and having their house burglarized while they are home (25% each).

Trend: Americans' Worries About Various Theft/Robbery Scenarios

Worry about each of these crimes reached lows similar to today's readings in 2001, based on the percentage of those who say they "frequently" or "occasionally" worry about them. That was a month after the attacks on 9/11, when Americans' views on a variety of subjects were more positive than usual. Americans' worries about all four of these crimes spiked in 2002-2003 and 2006.

The percentage of Americans worried about the less confrontational crimes -- theft involving a car or an unoccupied home -- have been up near 50% at several times over the past 15 years. Americans' worry about the more confrontational crimes -- muggings and having their home burglarized while they are home -- has been consistently lower, with peaks of around 33% since 2001.

The latest data are from Gallup's annual Crime poll, conducted Oct. 7-11.

Seven in 10 Worry About Identity Theft, Hacking of Credit Card Info

Though theft and robberies worry a sizable percentage of Americans, identify theft and credit card fraud produce even more anxiety. About seven in 10 say they "frequently" or "occasionally" worry about having computer hackers steal their credit card information from stores they have visited, and the same percentage worry about being a victim of identity theft.

A third of Americans frequently or occasionally worry about having a school-aged child physically harmed while at school, but this rises to 48% among parents of children younger than 18.

Americans' Worries About Various Crimes, October 2015

As the rank-order of crimes indicates, Americans tend to be less worried about more violent crimes. About a quarter say they frequently or occasionally worry about being a victim of terrorism (27%), and about one in five say they worry about being the victim of a hate crime (19%).

Seventeen percent say they worry about being attacked while driving their car or getting murdered, while 16% worry about being sexually assaulted. Being assaulted or killed by a coworker or employee where they work is the crime Americans worry about the least (7%).

Bottom Line

It is a bit peculiar that Americans are less worried about theft and robberies today than at any time in the past decade, given that they perceive crime as being on the rise -- although majorities nearly always believe crime is increasing. It will be important to see if the pattern persists in next year's crime update. While fewer Americans are worried about certain crimes, there has been no change in their frequency of worry about others, including being a victim of a hate crime or of terrorism, or having their children physically harmed at school.

The only crimes that the majority of Americans fret over are identify theft and credit card hacking, though these offenses have become common only in the more recent past. Americans tend to concern themselves more with theft than they do murder and sexual assault, suggesting the low prevalence of violent crimes relative to theft offsets their more troubling nature.

These data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Oct. 7-11, 2015, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 1,015 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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