From Gallup, we find these public opinion poll results:
Let’s leave aside the observation that if crime were to be worse that year than the previous for many years, we would be in a sci-fi dystopia at this point. It’s also worth noting (as Gallup does) that crime was been on a steady downward trend for decades.
You’ll notice that Clinton, despite his many faults, seemed to calm the country down–being the first post-Cold War president probably had a lot to do with that. At the same time, you’ll notice that there was a massive spike in 2002–wonder what caused that? Since then, we have had a steady drumbeat of various fears foisted upon us–and with this number in the mid-sixties, it can’t just be the paranoia of Fox News viewers and Rush Limbaugh listeners (as effective as they are in stoking fear).
This also applies at the local level–there was a post-2001 spike as well, so this isn’t just a ‘TV’ phenomena:
We have been manipulated–and allowed ourselves to be manipulated (in some cases, willingly)–into being afraid of everything, even when the evidence tells us otherwise. I chalk this up to another failure to realize ‘people have to like this crap.’ Make people’s lives better and more secure and they’ll stop jumping at non-existent shadows.