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Texas Crime Poll 2000
Finds Fear of Crime Decreasing

Texans are overwhelmingly less concerned about the problems of crime and drugs today than they were in 1994, the year before George W. Bush took over as governor. They are also considerably more satisfied with the criminal justice system and considerably less supportive of the death penalty than they were in the last year of Governor Ann Richards' term.

The results of the 2000 Texas Crime Poll, conducted by Sam Houston State University's College of Criminal Justice, report that in 1994 54 percent of Texans mentioned either crime or drugs as the most serious problem facing their local communities. These problems were mentioned by only 26 percent of the respondents to this year's survey.

This trend is repeated even more dramatically when respondents to the survey were asked to mention the most serious problem facing them at the state and national levels.

In 1994, 52 percent of Texans mentioned crime or drugs as the most serious problem facing them at the state level and 45 percent at the national level. In 2000, these figures dropped to only 16 percent at the state level and 12 percent at the national level. Fear of gangs dropped from 10 to 1 percent locally.

The big increases in areas selected as serious problems were in education, rising from 2 to 12 percent locally, 5 to 23 percent statewide and 2 to 6 percent nationally. Decline of family values went from 5 to 13 percent locally, 3 to 12 percent statewide, and 7 to 19 percent nationally.

"Not only are today's Texans less worried about crime, they are also considerably more satisfied with the criminal justice system today than they were in 1994," said Dennis R. Longmire, director of the Survey Research Program and author of reports published in both years.

According to Longmire, "When asked to evaluate each of the different components of the criminal justice system, today's respondents were overwhelmingly more satisfied with each component of the system than were the respondents to the 1994 survey."

The greatest increases in support were for their local law enforcement departments, the Department of Public Safety, and the state prison system.

While general satisfaction with the criminal justice system has increased, support for the death penalty has dropped. Eighty-one percent of Texans supported the death penalty in 1994, compared to only 72 percent in 2000. If there were a "true life sentence without parole" available only 60 percent of today's Texans would support the death penalty compared to 66 percent in 1994.

"Perhaps it is because we are considerably less worried about crime, or perhaps there are other factors at play," said Longmire, who is completing a separate study looking into Texans' confidence in the death penalty system.

"There has been a lot of discussion about the system Texas uses to administer the death penalty and this year we included several questions aimed at measuring how confident Texans are in that specific aspect of the criminal justice system," he said. The results of this special report are not yet available but will be released to the media and published on the Survey Research Program's Web page when they are available. Prior statewide surveys are also available on that site.

This year's study is the 33rd statewide survey completed under the auspices of Sam Houston State University's Criminal Justice Center. These surveys include questions designed to measure citizens' attitudes about crime, criminals and the administration of justice.

The 2000 Texas Crime Poll measured the results of telephone interviews of 403 adult Texans in September and October of this year. Results from the survey are estimated to be accurate within a 4.5 percent margin of error.

- END -

Texas Crime Poll Contact: Dennis Longmire

SHSU Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
Dec. 12, 2000
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