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Crime Tops List of Americans' Local Concerns

Education ranks as second worst problem

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- A recent Gallup survey, conducted May 23-24, finds crime topping Americans' list of the worst problems facing their local community. When asked to identify issues in their area, more than a quarter of the public, 27%, mentions crime, including the related problems of gangs, drugs, and guns. Education ranks second on the list, cited by 17%, followed by economic issues (15%), development issues (7%) and poverty (3%).

Gallup trends on this question date back to 1959, and suggest that the more things change, the more they stay the same. While some issues, such as racial integration and Vietnam, have come and gone from the list of concerns, others -- including crime, education and the economy -- appear to be enduring worries. Crime and education are as high on the list today as ever, while concern over the economy is low relative to other years.

Crime has tended to be the No. 1 or 2 local concern each time that Gallup has taken this measure. Among those who cite crime in the current poll, 2% mention juvenile crime specifically, while 2% mention guns, 1% cite gangs and 10% indicate drug or alcohol abuse. The remaining 12% mention crime more generally. Concern over crime is national, and it is as likely to be mentioned by those living in the South and Midwest as by residents of the East and West. Crime is of slightly higher concern, however, to those living in urban areas (37%) compared to those in suburban (24%) or rural (23%) communities.

Concern over Education is Up, Economic Worries Are Down
Education is always on the list of local public concerns, but perhaps not as high as it ranks today. Close to one in five Americans now cites education and the quality of local schools as their community's gravest issue. In contrast, only 4% mentioned education in 1985 and 7% in 1977. However, when Gallup first asked this question in 1959, the results were similar to today, with 15% mentioning education.

Various economic issues, such as taxes, unemployment, wages and the cost of living, always turn up high on Americans' list of local concerns, although they were more of an issue in previous years. Today, the economy and related mentions are cited by 15% of the public. Americans were more concerned about economic issues in 1985 (28%), 1977 (29%) and 1959 (33%).

Over-development is also not a new concern, although the long-term trend shows fewer mentions today than in earlier years. The first time Gallup asked the "worst local problem" question in 1959, 13% of the public cited congestion issues such as growth and traffic, compared to 7% today. Development-related concerns remained in this 7-13% range in the handful of polls Gallup conducted on this subject over the next several decades.

The results below are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,032 adults, 18 years and older, conducted May 23-24, 2000. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

What do you regard as the worst problem facing your community today? [Open-ended.]

 

2000 May 23-24

   

Crime Issues (27%)

 

Crime

12%

Juvenile crime

2

Gangs

1

Drugs/Alcohol abuse

10

Guns

2

   

Education (17%)

 

Education/Schools

17

   

Economic Issues (15%)

 

Taxes

5

Unemployment

4

High cost of living

2

The economy

1

Loss business/Towns dying out

1

Low wages

1

Social Security

1

   

Development Issues (7%)

 

Growth/Overcrowding

4

Poor infrastructure

2

Traffic

1

   

Poverty Issues (3%)

 

Poverty

1

People on welfare

1

Homelessness

1

   

Miscellaneous (15%)

 

Decline in morals

3

Health care issues

3

Politics/Politicians

2

Lack of activities for youth

1

Environment/Pollution

1

Drought

1

Lack of parental supervision

1

Racism/Discrimination

1

Illegal immigrants

1

Agriculture

1

Apathy

*

Lack of government assistance

*

   

Other

6

No problems

4

No opinion

6

Total

100%

Gallup


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