International E-publication: Publish Projects, Dissertation, Theses, Books, Souvenir, Conference Proceeding with ISBN.  International E-Bulletin: Information/News regarding: Academics and Research

Mind the Gap: Public Attitudes on Crime Miss the Mark

Author Affiliations

  • 1 Department of Political Science, Purdue University-Calumet, Indiana, UNITED STATES
  • 2 Department of Political Science, Northern Illinois University, Illinois, UNITED STATES

Int. Res. J. Social Sci., Volume 2, Issue (3), Pages 1-11, March,14 (2013)


Even though crime has fallen dramatically in the United States in the past several years, public opinion polls indicate that crime and public safety are among the leading concerns cited by the public. These polls tell us that Americans have a decidedly and consistently cynical view – saying crime is up locally and nationally; that crime perceptions are largely formed by what they see or hear in the news media; and, in general, opinions about crime don't reflect reality. Public perceptions of crime are important since they shape how people think about, and respond to, crime. This article explores public misconception about the nature and extent of crime and considers why public perception of crime is so at odds with official statistics, and the scope of the disparity between factual indicators and public perception on other crime related issues. The paper concludes with a discussion of the many ways crime perceptions are important and potential consequences of a crime gap.


  1. Skogan W.G., Disorder and Decline: Crime and the Spiral of Decay in American Neighborhoods, New York: Free Press (1990)
  2. Ferraro K.F., Fear of crime: Interpreting victimization risk. New York: State University of New York Press (1995)
  3. Warr Mark, Fear of crime in the United States: avenues for research and policy, Criminal Justice, 451–490 (2000)
  4. Liska Allen E., Joseph J. Lawrence and Andrew Sanchirico, Fear of Crime as a Social Fact, Social Forces, 60(3), 760-770 (1982)
  5. Roberts Julian V., Public Opinion Crime and Criminal Justice, Crime and Justice, 16, 99-180 (1992)
  6. Warr Mark, Age Peers and Delinquency, Criminology,31,17-40 (1993)
  7. Sherman Lawrence W., Defiance, Deterrence and Irrelevance: A Theory of the Criminal Sanction, Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency,30, 445-473 (1993)
  8. Warr Mark, Poll Trends: Public Opinion on Crime and Punishment, Public Opinion Quarterly, 59, 296-310 (1995)
  9. Shaw Greg M., Robert Y. Shapiro, Shmuel Lock and Lawrence R. Jacobs, Crime, the Police, and Civil Liberties, Public Opinion Quarterly, 62, 405-426 (1998)
  10. Sabol William J., Heather West and Matthew Cooper, Prisoners in 2008. U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs Bureau of Justice Statistics(2010)
  11. Yanich Danilo, Location, Location, Location: Urban and Suburban Crime on Local TV News, Journal of Urban Affairs, 23, 3-4 (2001)
  12. Archer D. and Gartner R., Violence and Crime in Cross-National Perspective, New Haven: Yale, University Press (1984)
  13. Zimring Franklin E., The Great American Crime Decline.New York: Oxford University Press (2007)
  14. Skogan W.G and Maxfield M.G., Coping with Crime and Neighborhood Reaction, CA: Sage (1981)
  15. Ross Catherine E., Fear of Victimization and Health, Journal of QuantitativeCriminology,, 159-175 (1993)
  16. Warr Mark, Public perceptions and reactions to violent offending and victimization. In Consequences and control, edited by Albert J. Reiss, Jr., and Jeffrey A. Roth. Vol. 4 of Understanding and preventing violence. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press (1994)
  17. Lott John R. and More Guns R., Less Crime: understanding Crime and Gun-Control Laws.Chicago: University of Chicago Press (1998)
  18. Duggan Mark, More Guns and More Crime, The Journal of Political Economy, 109(5), 1086-1114 (2001)
  19. Niemi Richard G., John Mueller and Tom W. Smith, Trends in Public Opinion, New York: Greenwood Press (1989)
  20. Butcher Kristin F. and Anne Morrison Piehl with research support from Jay Liao. Crime, Corrections, and California: What Does Immigration Have to Do with It? In California Counts: Population Trends and Profiles edited by Hans P. Johnson (for Public Policy Institute of California) (2008)
  21. Smith James and Barry Edmonston, Editors. Panel on the Demographic and Economic Impacts of Immigration, National Research Council National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. (2008)
  22. Butcher Kristin F. and Anne Morrison Piehl, Why are Immigrants’ Incarceration Rates So Low? Evidence on Selective Immigration, Deterrence, and Deportation, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Working Paper WP-2005-19, November 2005 (2009)
  23. Lee Matthew T., Ramiro Martinez Jr. and Richard B. Rosenfeld, Does Immigration Increase Homicide? Negative Evidence from Three border Cities, Sociological Quarterly, 42(4), 559-580 (2001)
  24. Rumbaut Ruben G. and Walter A. Ewing, The Myth of Immigrant - Criminality and the Paradox of Assimilation: Incarceration Rates among Native and Foreign-Born Men. Prepared for the Immigration Policy Center: A division of the American Immigration Law Foundation (2007)
  25. Gilliam Jr., Franklin and Shanto Iyengar, Prime Suspects: The Influence of Local Television News on the Viewing Public, American Journal of Political Science,44(3), 560-573 (2000)
  26. Graber Doris A., Editor. Media Power in Politics, 6th Edition. University of Illinois at Chicago (2010)
  27. Parisis N., Gottfredson M.R., Hindeland M.J. and Flanagan T.J. (eds.), Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics 1978, Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office (1979)
  28. Pettinico George, Crime and Punishment: America Changes Its Mind, PublicPerspective,5(6), 29-32 (1994)
  29. Knowles Jeffrey, Ohio Citizen Attitudes concerning Crime and Criminal Justice. 4th ed. Columbus, Ohio: Governor's Office of Criminal Justice Services (1984)
  30. Longmire Dennis R., The Ultimate Weapon: Capital Punishment. Chapter in Flanagan, Timothy J. and Dennis R. Longmire, eds., Americans View Crime and Justice: A National Public Opinion Survey, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 93-108 (1996)