With homicides up 44% in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic 2019, Trump-Biden voters in key swing states are taking note of massive spikes in crime.
In this month’s Swing Voter Project, we asked three registered Democrats, three Republicans, and six independents an open-ended question about what issue in the news concerns them most. Four responded that their top issue was crime; that’s the most we’ve ever heard.
Eleven out of 12 swing voters reported that crime has gotten worse in their community during the pandemic. And they’ve all got their own hypotheses as to who—or what—is to blame.
“I’m going to go with joblessness, even though the job opportunities are there, only because people are home and bored,” said Tessa, 33, from Albemarle, NC. She later revealed that her car had been stolen.
“It’s people and their frustration with having to be isolated…. There is no other outlet for anything it seems like, and that’s the only thing they can think of, to get… some kind of fulfillment for their lack of being able to do anything,” added Adrienne, 52, from Dallas, TX.
Stephanie, 27, from Scottsdale, AZ, said, “I think it’s a combination of inflation and social welfare benefits. There’s been a lot of theft and burglary in my area, and part of it could just be that people don’t have the money for certain things so they’re taking it from others, or that they’re getting money in a certain way and there’s no incentive to work, and they just want to continue as they know that… if they’re not caught then they won’t be prosecuted for stealing packages or burglarizing an empty home.”
Others focused their attention on external causes.
Nia, 24, from Bloomington, MN, said: “I live in the direct community where George Floyd was murdered by a cop and feel like a lot of our administration is to blame for that, locally and world-wide with Trump…. A lot of people still feel like they’re owed something because of what took place, so if they’re not given it, they’re going to take it.”
“Maybe you blame prosecutors or judges. It seems like it’s a revolving door,” said Greg, 58, from Lawrenceville, GA. “These people who are charged with really serious crimes where I think you should be locked up, or held until trial, seem to be on the streets in two or three days….This whole retail looting thing I don’t understand. I’ve never seen something like that in my life, where 20 people walk into a Rite Aid and clean off the shelves and walk out the door.”
“Specifically in Philadelphia, it’s the misguided progressive politics of the district attorney that was elected,” said David, 47, from Audubon, PA.
Steven, 61, also from the Philadelphia area, said, “I believe the pandemic had a lot to do with it, but the rioting was also part of it. The problem is though that the judges and the laws aren’t as severe enough and they need to be upped, and I don’t understand why the government isn’t doing something about changing the law and making it more strict as a deterrent. They’re failing us right now.”
Notably, no one blamed any politicians for the spike in crime. And while eight said it was a voting issue for them in November, it was more likely to affect how they vote for people on the state and local level who govern them directly, as opposed to Congress.
Susie Pieper is a student at Haverford College and an intern at Engagious.