WASHINGTON, Nearly half of Americans believe the criminal justice system isn’t tough enough on those who break the law, a new Gallup poll showed Thursday — but fewer believe that than did respondents in the last 20 years.
According to the survey, 45 percent of those questioned said the justice system should be tougher on crime. In 2003, the majority — 65 percent — said the same thing.
The poll results show a continuing shift in how Americans view domestic justice. In 1992, a whopping 83 percent of Americans surveyed believed the system was inadequate.
The shift, experts believe, might be due to higher incarceration rates and more instances of perceived social injustices.
Thirty-five percent said the system handles crime “about right” and 14 percent said it’s “too tough.” In 1992, just 2 percent said it’s too tough.
Half of Caucasians questioned (53 percent) said the system isn’t tough enough, compared to just 30 percent of non-whites. Only about 10 percent of whites said it’s too tough, compared to 23 percent of non-whites.
Politically, the difference is even more stark. Sixty-five percent of Republican-leaning respondents said the American criminal justice system is too lenient — more than double the number of Democrats who answered that way (29 percent). Only 5 percent of Republicans said it’s too tough and 30 percent said it’s about right. Most Democrats (42 percent) said it’s about right.
When it comes to drug sentencing guidelines, 47 percent of Republicans believe they are insufficient, compared to just 22 percent of Democrats. Fifty percent of those on the left said they are too touch, compared to 26 percent of Republicans.
The poll was conducted between Oct. 5-9 and has a margin of error of 5 percentage points.
By Doug G. Ware