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Gallup: Only 14% Think Justice System Is Too Tough

Justin McCarthy has this article for Gallup. 

Q:  In general, do you think the criminal justice system in this country is too tough, not tough enough or about right in its handling of crime?

A: 45% not tough enough, 35% about right, 14% too tough, 6% duh.

Gallup headlines the fact that "not tough enough" has dropped substantially over the years, but most of that drop has gone to the Goldilocks answer of "about right."  Despite all the wailing and gnashing of teeth we have heard from academia and the press over the last decade or so, only 1 American in 7 thinks the system is too tough.

The other half of the split sample was asked specifically about drugs, with a quite different result:
Q:  In general, do you think the current sentencing guidelines for people convicted of routine drug crimes are too tough, not though enough, or about right?

A:  38% too tough, 34% not tough enough, 25% about right, 4% duh.

That wording is a bit problematic.  What does the respondent think "routine drug crimes" refers to?  Even so, there is justification for a belief that sentencing for drug offenses got misaligned on the severity scale compared to other things.

Drug offenses aside, the American people do not think we are too tough on burglars, robbers, rapists, and murderers.  And they are right.


Another Gallup poll this week shows 60% think marijuana should be legal, which in turn makes me assume that this poll about "routine drug crimes" could be widely and disparately interpreted.

Indeed. Given the widespread belief in the myth that we are locking people up in state prison for possession of one joint, many of the people answering "yes" to the "routine drug crimes" wording may have a fundamentally wrong view of how "tough" the present system actually is.

Prof. Berman: "could be widely and disparately interpreted"

There are cases of analysts oversimplifying ambiguous
results; however, one could rather be making a pretense of 'disparate
interpretations' to shroud unassailable truths.

One factual summation: 45 + 35 > 14, that is, the poll found that
five times more Americans responded* that the CJ system is
either not tough enough or about right
, than the minority who
responded that it is too tough.

*responding via phone October 5-9, 2016

Adamakis, Doug was referring to the second question. I agree that the problematic wording makes interpretation of the result on this question uncertain.

You are quite correct on the first question, IMHO.

I would also suggest/assert in light of the public opinion polls on capital punishment in California and elsewhere that a bit part of the 45% "not tough enough" could be a reflection of the dwindling use of the death penalty in so many places despite persistent public support for it.

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