Dennis R. Longmire, Ph.D., Director
Lance Hignite, Coordinator

Criminal Justice Center
Survey Research Program
Sam Houston State University
Huntsville, Texas  77341
(409) 294-1651

web site: Survey Research Program

Suggested citation format:

Longmire, Dennis R. and Lance Hignite (1999). 1999 Texas Crime Poll. Huntsville, Texas: College of
     Criminal Justice, Sam Houston State University. http://www.shsu.edu/~icc_drl/1999_Texas_Crime_Poll.html.

Executive Summary

This year's Texas Crime Poll involved a statewide telephone survey of 607 Texans completed in July and August of 1999.  The questions included in this year's survey had been asked to a sample of Texans in the spring of 1979 allowing for an assessment to be made of changes in attitudes about the issues included in both studies.  The results of the surveys are reported in six substantive sections including measures of fear of crime, perceptions of police use of force, evaluations of court sentencing practices and attitudes about the use of the death penalty, measures of the public's openness to probation for different offenses, measures of the public's perceptions of the purpose of prisons and the use of parole, and measures of Texans' perceptions of the purpose of adult and juvenile systems of justice and their support for tax increases to improve criminal justice services.

The most salient findings within the report show that today's Texans are considerably less fearful than they were in 1979.  Today's Texans are also more likely to approve of law enforcement officers using deadly force for crime prevention purposes and they are less concerned about the general use of force by police officers when they are dealing with criminals and citizens alike.  When compared with the 1979 sample, the respondents to the 1999 survey were slightly less likely to characterize the courts as being "too easy" and Texans have become increasingly more tolerant about the use of the death penalty than they were in 1979.

The Texas public has also become increasingly more open to the use of probation for all offense categories included in the surveys with the exception of "driving while intoxicated" where only 41% of the 1999 respondents favored its use compared with 60% favoring its use in such cases in 1979.  While in both years a large proportion of Texans identified punishment as a "very important" purpose of prisons, the 1999 respondents were considerably less supportive of "rehabilitation" than they were the 1979 respondents. In adition to being more supportive of "punishment," the 1999 respondents were considerably more supportive of "incapacitation" as an important purpose of prisons.  The 1999 sample was also markedly less supportive than the 1979 sample of the use of parole as a means for early release related to prison behavior.

The 1999 sample was also asked about their perceptions of the importance of different purposes of both the adult and juvenile justice systems as a whole and they were considerably more punitive when dealing with adult offenders and more rehabilitative when dealing with juvenile offenders.  Texans also reported moderate support for the use of "reconcilation" or "restorative justice" as an important purpose for both the adult and juvenile systems alike.  The 1999 sample was also considerably more supportive of the use of tax increases to improve and/or expand the different components of the criminal justice system than they were in 1979.

The full report can be read at 1999 Texas Crime Poll Final Report and those interested in further examination of the data can download a copy of the data set for personal use at TEXAS CRIME POLL ON-LINE.

Table of Contents


Section 1: The 1999 Survey and Characteristics of the Samples

Section 2: Fear of Crime

Section 3: Perceptions of Police Use of Force

Section 4: Evaluation of Court Sentencing Practices and Attitudes About the Use of the Death Penalty

Section 5: The Public's Openness to Probation for Different Offenses

Section 6: Public Perceptions of the Purpose of Prisons and the Use of Parole

Section 7: Texans' Perceptions of the Purpose of the Adult and Juvenile Systems of Justice and Support for Tax Increases to Improve Criminal Justice Services

List of Tables
Table 1     Number and Percent of Respondents by Gender, Race/Ethnicity, and Education
                 Level: 1979 and 1999

Table 2     Fear of Walking Near Home at Night: 1979 and 1999

Table 3.1 Perceptions of When Deadly Force is Allowable: 1979 and 1999

Table 3.2 Public Opinions About Excessive Use of Force by Police: 1979 and 1999

Table 4.1 Texans' Evaluation of Court Sentencing Practices: 1979 and 1999

Table 4.2 Texans' Attitudes About Whether or Not Jurors Should be Informed of Parole Eligibility
                Dates at Time of Sentencing: 1979 and 1999

Table 4.3 Percent of Respondents Supporting the Death Penalty for Different Crimes: 1979 and 1999

Table 5    Probation Consideration by Crime Types: 1979 and 1999

Table 6.1 Purpose of Texas Prisons: 1979 and 1999

Table 6.2 Public Support for Parole

Table 7.1  Level of Support for Different Purposes of Adult and Juvenile Justice Systems in 1999

Table 7.2 Texans' Support for Tax Increases for Different Criminal Justice Services: 1979 and 1999