Twice as many Americans say the justice system is “not tough enough” on crime rather than “too tough” — but the gap has narrowed considerably, a new survey released Monday reveals.
The Gallup Poll found that 41 percent of respondents said the criminal justice system is not tough enough compared to 21 percent who said it’s too tough. The remaining 35 percent said the justice system was “about right” in addressing crime.
The results are a far cry from a generation ago, when violent crime was a more pressing issue.
In 1992, 83 percent of Americans said the justice system wasn’t tough enough on crime. In 2000, 70 percent of respondents said the system wasn’t tough enough. But a variance by political party and race persists.
In the current survey, 58 percent of Republicans said the justice system wasn’t tough enough compared to just 25 percent of Democrats who believed the same.
Meanwhile 45 percent of white respondents said the justice system wasn’t tough enough, down from 53 percent in 2016.
Among non-whites, just 31 percent of respondents said the system was not tough enough.
Overall, there was a seven percentage point increase among those who say the system is too tough, jumping from 14 percent in 2016 to 21 percent in 2020.
“Although a plurality still think the system is not tough enough, the percentage who say it is too tough has risen in the past year. This is likely attributable, at least in part, to the backlash that has resulted from several highly publicized deaths of Black Americans at the hands of police officers,” Gallup said of its findings.
As for how the government should address cutting crime, Americans by a nearly two-to-one margin favor turning toward more preventive measures rather than bolstering law enforcement.
Given the two options, 63 percent prefer putting money and effort into addressing social and economic problems such as drug addiction, homelessness and mental health compared to 34 percent who want to pump more resources into strengthening law enforcement.
The Gallup survey queried 1,035 Americans between Sept. 30 and Oct. 15 and has a 4 percent plus or minus margin of error.