AKRON — In May, Ohioans were asked to name their biggest concerns for 2016, and crime/ violence was in the top 10 issues.
The initial poll of 1,001 people done in May for Ohio news outlets as part of the Your Vote Ohio project showed that people defined crime and violence in multiple ways, among them as a need for gun regulation or guns for protection, concern for terrorism, and some for protection from immigrants.
“Anytime we have crime, we all have to pay for it because it costs us taxpayers money,” said Donald Miller, a 58-year-old from Lima who works in manufacturing. “The only way we can deter that is to have more police on the force.
And, Miller said that if we are to protect everyone’s rights, police presence needs to be increased, despite statistics showing that violent crime is decreasing.
“We’re going to have to have everyone working together — the Crime Bureau, the FBI, all of them need to work together, even down to local law enforcement,” he said.
Also on people’s minds were the sharp increase in drug overdoses and police shootings in Cleveland, Cincinnati and across the country.
Those who cited crime first were disproportionately from the northern half of the state, earning less than $50,000 a year and with less than a college education.
“I have a firearm in my home that is loaded and it saved my house from a murder,” said a young single white male from Northwest Ohio. It “keeps immigrants from raping and killing my family.”
“I’m afraid to go anywhere without getting shot,” said a white poll respondent from Southwest Ohio, a member of the boomer generation.
“Police violence against the citizens” was the top concern of a middle-aged woman in Northeast Ohio. “Because I’m African American, it seems to me we are being targeted.”
Respondents were granted anonymity in exchange for personal thoughts and information. For the news media’s purposes, three polls asking similar questions were conducted in May, August and October by the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron and the Center for Marketing and Opinion Research in Akron.
The poll showed that economic issues were by far the most important concern of Ohioans, and immigration, terrorism, crime and health care followed.
Hillary Clinton has taken a reform position that eliminates mandatory sentencing for lesser crimes and emphasizes rehabilitation, a change in school discipline to keep children out of the so-called school-to-prison pipeline, and better training for police.
She also has expressed concern about racial profiling by police and the disproportionate number of blacks in the criminal justice system.
“We have to make sure that our police are using the best training, the best techniques, that they’re well prepared to use force only when necessary,” Clinton said in the first debate with Donald Trump. “Everyone should be respected by law and everyone should respect the law.”
Trump has defined himself as the law-and-order candidate. He made it a theme of his convention in Cleveland, promised to get tough on urban dwellers and as the months wore on, the polls showed the number of Ohioans naming crime and violence as a top issue grew slightly.
“The problem is not the presence of police, but the absence of police,” Trump said at a rally in Charlotte in late October. “… You know the murder rate in the United States — I don’t know if you know this because the press never talks about it — is the highest it’s been, think of this, in 45 years. Nobody knows that.”
He was wrong, however.
By the numbers
Trump has been bold if not often wrong on crime.
At least three times at rallies in October he said that the U.S. murder rate is at its highest point in 45 years.
Some tried to correct him.
The murder rate in the last six years has leveled off at its lowest level since the 1960s, not the highest, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Statistics report, and that’s despite a spike in 2015.
But Trump’s not alone. America’s perceptions often differ with reality, and that’s the case with crime.
On average since 2007, two-thirds of Americans polled by the Gallup Organization said that the U.S. crime rate was worse in the current year than the previous. http://www.gallup.com/poll/1603/crime.aspx
That was incorrect.
During those years, the rate of violent and property crimes declined each year, with the exception of 2015.
Red vs. blue
Crime rates seem to follow the candidates.
States that are certain to send their electoral votes to the Republican candidate collectively have a higher crime rate than those more likely to support Hillary Clinton, according to an analysis done for the Beacon Journal by its retired investigative reporter David Knox.
Among those with the nation’s highest violent crime rates are Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, Missouri, Alabama and South Carolina — all solidly Republican.
And in the 20 years that crime rates have fallen, the rates have fallen faster in states most likely to vote Democrat.
Those include Oregon, Virginia, Washington and some very large states: New York and Illinois.
Ohio is among 14 unpredictable swing states, and the crime-to-candidate correlation tends to follow.
Ohio, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia and Nevada have some of the highest crime rates in the swing group and are either too close to call or likely to go to Trump Nov. 8.
Those with lower rates are leaning toward Clinton.
In 55 years of records, Ohio’s violent crime rate has never surpassed the U.S. rate. During the worst years for violent rime, 1987-97, the national rate was about 40 percent higher than Ohio’s.
Ohio continues to be better than the nation, even though Cleveland posted the largest percentage increase — 90 percent — in the murder rate among the nation’s 50 largest cities in 2015, according to a Washington Post analysis. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/2015-homicides/?tid=a_inl
Columbus also made the list, up 16.5 percent — more than Chicago.
Property crime, however, is a different story.
From 1960-99, Ohioans enjoyed a lower property crime rate than the country. But since 2000 the state has been higher than the national rate, peaking at 12 percent higher in 2011 as the state continued to struggle with the aftermath of the Great Recession.
Retired Beacon Journal computer-assisted reporter David Knox provided the statistical analysis for this story. Also contributing were Doug Livingston of the Beacon Journal, Will Garbe and Max Filby of the Dayton Daily News and Craig Kelly at the Lima News.