Friday, October 16, 2009

Crimes Rates: Hell In a Handbasket!

Posted By on Fri, Oct 16, 2009 at 10:31 PM

Crime rates are dropping, for the most part, in Tucson, according to TPD stats.

But Republicans seeking seats on the City Council and supporters of the Public Safety First Initiative say crime is out of control. And they say they've got polling that shows that people believe it.

Ryan Sager at Neuroworld looks at some numbers that show the public almost always believes crime is on the rise, no matter what the actual crime trends are:

With the exception of 2001 and 2002 (9/11 effect?), between 52% and 89% of Americans every year since 1990 have thought that crime is on the rise. That’s a pretty remarkable statistic, given that crime declined steadily nationally throughout the 1990s and has remained essentially level in the 2000s. Whatever the year-to-year correspondence is, we know that people have gotten the big picture wildly wrong, year after year.

That is, people pretty much always seem to think that this year is worse than last, regardless of the actual trends.

Does this sound like anything else to you? How about: This generation is so much stupider/lazier/ruder than the last; politics is so much dirtier these days; the world is going to hell in a hand basket.

For whatever reason, this seems to be the default human predisposition. Is it availability bias? You hear about some terrible things happening during the course of every year, and — slowly forgetting all the terrible things that happened the year before and the year before that and so on — you assume that this year must be the worst ever?

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