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Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics

Section 2

Public attitudes toward crime and criminal justice-related topics

Results from public opinion polls on attitudes of Americans toward criminal justice-related issues are presented in Section 2. Numerous topics are covered including perceptions of the police and courts; fear of crime; and attitudes toward the death penalty, firearms laws, marijuana legalization, and much more. Results of polls conducted by The Gallup Organization; Louis Harris and Associates; Los Angeles Times Poll; National Opinion Research Center; Monitoring the Future Project at the Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan; Survey Research Program at Sam Houston State University; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration; and others are included.

Readers should be aware that many factors, especially slight differences in the wording of survey questions, may have significant effects on survey responses. In addition, the margin of error for some survey results, presented in Appendix 6, may vary slightly between surveys. Thus, attention to the exact wording of questions and the appropriate estimate of error should accompany comparisons.

View entire Section 2 in Acrobat format (476 k)


Most important problems for country and communities
Problems in schools
Public confidence in institutions
Confidence in the criminal justice system
Confidence in police
Confidence in the U.S. Supreme Court and local courts
Confidence in the prison system
Ethics of lawyers and police
Police use of force
Perceptions of crime and safety
Teenagers' attitudes toward drugs and other influences
Level of spending for the problems of crime and drugs
Responses to crime and criminals
Anti-drug measures
Police officials' attitudes toward efforts to reduce the drug problem
Severity of local courts
Use of wiretaps
Drug testing to get a driver's license
Dealing with drunk drivers
Purpose of sentencing; rehabilitation
Death penalty
Gun ownership
Gun control policies
Legalization of marijuana
High school seniors' attitudes: Selected social problems
High school seniors' attitudes: Performance of selected institutions
High school seniors' attitudes: Performance of the police
High school seniors' attitudes: Performance of the courts and justice system
Perceptions of the harmfulness of drug use
Students' perceptions of availability of drugs
Students disapproving of drug use
High school seniors' attitudes toward legalization of marijuana
College freshmen attitudes: Legalization of marijuana
College freshmen attitudes: Abortion
College freshmen attitudes: The courts
College freshmen attitudes: Capital punishment
College freshmen attitudes: Homosexual relations
College freshmen attitudes: AIDS testing and drug testing
College freshmen attitudes: Gun control
Pornography, prostitution, and homosexuality

Tables and figures