Americans' fear of crime has hit the highest level in fifteen years, according to a new Gallup poll.

The highlights:

  • 53% worry "a great deal" about crime, compared with 39% in 2014
  • 44% are concerned about drug use, also up significantly since 2014

How realistic is this new concern with crime? Gallup comments:

The rise in Americans' level of concern about crime could reflect actual, albeit modest, increases in crime, as well as increasing media coverage of it. The number of violent crimes reported to police across the country in the first half of 2015 was up by 1.7% compared with the same period in 2014, according to the FBI's 2015 Uniform Crime Report. Many large U.S. cities reported spikes in their homicide rates in 2015, including Milwaukee, St. Louis, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. From a long-term perspective, though, violent crime is down significantly since the 1990s.

As might be expected, the less affluent are more worried about crime: 

Americans across all major subgroups show heightened worry about crime compared with 2014. Worry has increased the most among those without a college degree and those living in households earning $30,000 to less than $75,000 annually.

More broadly, those with no college education are roughly twice as likely as those with a college degree to worry about crime, and those living in households earning less than $30,000 per year are much more likely than those earning at least $75,000 to worry about crime and violence. Nonwhites' concern about crime is much higher than whites' worry about the issue.

There is also a racial divide: While 46 percent of whites are deeply concerned about crime, 68 percent of non-whites share the same level of worry. Concern about illegal drug use, which goes hand in hand with a rise in criminal activity, has also skyrocketed.

I can't help but wonder if some of the fear among non-whites is the result of demonizing the police and thus making it harder for the police to do their job  in some communities.New York's more stringent stop and frisk rules may make the police reluctant to confront potential criminals.

In commenting on the Gallup poll, Powerline seems to be going in the same direction:

Although the concerns of all Americans matter, nowadays it seems fashionable in many quarters to believe that Black Worries Matter more. Thus, I hope it’s not amiss to point out that blacks worry more than whites about crime and drug use. …

The desire of President Obama, liberals generally, and some conservatives to release convicted drug dealers from jail and be more lenient towards drug dealers going forward seems particularly misguided under the present circumstances.  

Of course if you are a college-educated liberal who can afford a safe neighborhood, these matters might not concern you as much as they do less affluent segments of the population.