Perceptions of Safety in Cities are Unrelated to Actual Crime Rates
A new Gallup survey suggests that people's opinions on which cities are safe and unsafe are not based on crime data.
Gallup is out with a new survey showing which cities people rate as safe or unsafe to live in or visit. Most of the focus in their article is on the partisan gap between Democrats and Republicans, with Republicans rating most cities much more poorly, except for Miami and Dallas.
Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
But a more interesting finding from the survey is that for either party, the safety ratings are almost entirely unrelated to city homicide rates1.
Breaking out the safety ratings by party doesn’t change much. People’s perceptions of which cities are safe simply do not line up with the cities’ murder rates, regardless of political party. The cities considered least safe on the list include Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. While Detroit has a high murder rate, Chicago is near the middle of the pack, just above Miami, which is rated as the fourth safest city on the list. Los Angeles and New York are near the bottom of the list in murder rate.
That these latter three cities are the most populous in the country might not be a concidence. If perceptions of crime are affected by consumption of crime-related news media, then it might follow that cities that recieve more news coverage—due to their size—would be percieved as more dangerous.
Note: I’m doing something usually frowned upon by people who publish crime stats: comparing crime rates across cities. There are various ways these comparisons can go awry, related to how data are reported for cities with many law enforcement agencies (the data here only include the largest agency).
Homicide rates are a useful proxy for violent crime since they are less susceptible to bias related to reporting rates.