Violent gun crime has dropped dramatically in the past two decades, but the majority of Americans think it’s more of a problem now than ever, according to a Pew Research Center study released Tuesday.
According to the survey, done in March, 56% of Americans believe gun crime is worse today than it was 20 years ago. And 84% believe in recent years, gun crime has either gone up or stayed the same — when the reality is that it has dropped significantly.
The rate of non-fatal violent gun crime victimization dropped 75% in the past 20 years; The gun homicide rate dropped 49% in the same period, according to numbers Pew researchers obtained from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The public doesn’t get its feelings out of crime statistics,” said Alfred Blumstein, an urban systems professor at Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University. “The public gets its feelings from particularly notorious events, and what the press talks about.”
The recent attention on the massacre in Newtown, Conn., other mass shootings and even the spate of shootings in Chicago have fueled a perception that crime is up, even though in most cities it has dropped overall, he said.