Gallup Poll shows 58% of U.S. adults think criminal justice system isn't tough enough

UPI
A new Gallup Poll indicates that, among white adults, 60% favored strengthening law and order, while people of color favored reducing bias against minorities (52%). File Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI

Nov. 16 (UPI) -- Most Americans think the criminal justice system is too soft on crime, according to a survey released Thursday by Gallup.

The poll found that 58% of Americans said the criminal justice system is not tough enough, up 17 points from the last survey in 2020 and marking a sharp reversal from the downward trend since the survey began in 1992, Gallup reported.

In 2020, a record-low 41% said the criminal justice system was not tough enough, down from 45% in 2016, 65% in 2003, 70% in 2000 and 83% in 1992.

"Most U.S. adults think the criminal justice system should focus on strengthening law enforcement rather than reducing bias against minorities, but they believe targeting social and economic problems is key to lowering the crime rate," Gallup said in a news release.

The poll is based on telephone interviews with more than 1,000 U.S. adults conducted Oct. 2-23. It included 242 people of color and 738 white Americans.

About 26% of participants said the justice system is about right and 14% said it is too tough.

Republicans and white Americans led the trend, with 75% of Republicans and 63% of white adults saying the justice system is not tough enough, compared with 42% of Democrats and 49% of people of color.

Survey participants were less likely to say the criminal justice system is fair to people accused of committing crime, with 49% saying the system is fair or somewhat fair, down from 66% in 2003. Among Republicans, 55% said the system is fair, while 53% of white adults agreed. Democrats and people of color were more likely to say the system treats suspects unfairly, at 55% and 56% respectively.

When asked to prioritize strengthening law and order or reducing bias against minorities, 55% favored strengthening law and order through more police and greater enforcement of the laws, up from 49% in 2016.

Among white adults, 60% favored strengthening law and order, while people of color favored reducing bias against minorities (52%). Democrats leaned 71% toward reducing bias, and 82% of Republicans favored strengthening law and order.

Most survey participants (64%) prefer addressing social and economic problems, such as drug addiction, homelessness and mental health over bolstering law enforcement. Democrats led that measure, with 87% preferring addressing social and economic problems, compared with 40% of Republicans.

An earlier survey reflected little faith in U.S. societal institutions. It found that faith in police was at an all-time low of 43% in 2023, while faith in the criminal justice system was 17%.