In a representative democracy, the way a representative votes on an issue is determined not only by what position the voters favor but also by how important they think the issue is. The issues foremost in the public mind are those where a representative is least likely to go against the majority view of the voters. Further down the list, voters’ disagreement with a representative’s vote is less likely to change how they vote in the election. Representatives may feel more free to vote differently based on other factors, including the views of major contributors, impact on favorability of media coverage, or their own (possibly misguided) views of good policy.
Monmouth University has this poll, finding that crime has risen to number two on the voters’ priority list.
Inflation is number one, unsurprisingly. Pocketbook issues are always high. Elections are third, followed by jobs, immigration, infrastructure, abortion, racial inequality, gun control, climate change, Covid, and student loan debt.
The actual poll question is, “How important do you think it is for the federal government to address these issues?” This is followed by a list of issues, of which “crime” is one. There may well be voters who think it is very important for state and local governments to address crime, but not the federal government, so the poll number may be lower than overall concern about crime.
On the crosstabs, Monmouth gives us a “race” breakdown by putting “White non-Hispanic” in one category and “Hispanic, Black, Asian, and Other” in a second category. The assumption that all “minorities” can be lumped together is rather annoying. For what it’s worth, though, the latter category comes in at 77% answering “extremely important” or “very important,” compared to 70% for the “White non-Hispanic” category.
By income, 80% of the under $50K folks answered extremely or very important, compared to 66% of the $100K+ crowd. Among the well-heeled, 12% think crime is not important, double the numbers for the lower- and middle-income folks.
How will this translate into election results? It would be helpful if at least a few legislators who have been handing out “Get Out of Jail Free” cards lost their seats in elections where crime was seen as a pivotal issue. That would induce caution in those who remain. In jurisdictions where legislative control is close (including Congress), we might even seen control tipped in favor of effective law enforcement.
Politically, we have been through some difficult years. But there are encouraging signs that the people are waking up, and their representatives will eventually follow.