Recent Marquette Law School polls reflect voters’ contradictory positions on safety and crime.
Although 77% of respondents report feeling personally safe from crime when going about their daily activities, an even larger percentage of respondents nevertheless cite crime as a top concern and want increased police funding.
In the latest poll results, a whopping 85% of respondents are either “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about crime. Indeed, 57% of respondents said they are “very concerned” about crime. Only 14% reported little or no concern about crime.
Among those polled, crime ranks third overall among nine issues of concern, behind inflation and public schools.
With respondents sorted by political affiliation, 79% of Republicans and 55% of independents are very concerned about crime, but only 37% of Democrats are very concerned about crime.
Increased police funding is favored by a majority of respondents regardless of political affiliation.
Overall, 78% of all respondents favor increasing state funding for police. By political affiliation, 95% of Republicans, 80% of independents, and 58% of Democrats favor increased police funding.
Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll, announced the latest results at a presentation at the law school on Wednesday.
The poll measured opinions of 802 registered Wisconsin voters and was conducted between Oct. 24 and Nov. 1.
A prior recent Marquette Law School poll, released on Oct. 12, measured opinions on safety. When respondents were asked whether they felt safe from crime when going about their daily activities or whether they were worried about safety, 71% of Republicans, 76% of Independents, and 86% of Democrats responded that they felt safe.
Paru Shah, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, explains the conflicting data on personal safety versus concern about crime.
The significant concern about crime as an issue likely stems not from one’s own sense of safety but from political messaging of who is hard or soft on crime and how one affiliates with political parties, Shah said in an interview with the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
Those who identify with political talk about being hard on crime will more likely identify crime as an issue to be addressed when asked, she indicated. It’s not about “the actual ‘what’s happening in your neighborhood,’” but rather the messages that people hear about crime happening, she said.
“Crime” can also be coded language for Milwaukee, Shah said. Even someone who does not live in Milwaukee can consider crime to be a problem if Milwaukee is seen as a drain on resources. “People in Wisconsin probably do feel pretty safe,” but the narrative of a “big city that is kind of scary, is out there,” she said.
“Issues matter, but partisanship is the lens in which we look at those issues,” Shah said.
As noted by both Franklin when presenting the latest poll results and Shah after she looked at the numbers, the top three issues cited by Republicans do not overlap with those cited by Democrats.
Republicans cite accurate vote counts, inflation, and crime as their top three issues, while Democrats cite abortion policy, gun violence, and public schools.
Four of those issues — accurate vote counts, crime, abortion policy, and gun violence — may be seen as related to the justice system and recent cases in the courts.
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