Crime often dominates TV news broadcasts, online news feeds and above-the-fold newspaper headlines.
A Pew Research Center study examines this phenomenon from a different perspective, analyzing local news coverage in three cities – Denver, Colorado, Macon, Georgia, and Sioux City, Iowa – to determine who was more likely to watch and discuss crime news.
Researchers found that three out of 10 people in each city closely follow crime news, with more than half of the residents in each city prone to discuss crime news. But in Denver and Macon, two cities with large diverse populations, the people watching and talking the most were defined by racial and ethnic subgroups.
In Denver, for example, the Pew report found that Hispanics, who make up 19% of the city’s population, pay nearly twice as much attention to crime news compared to white residents. Among Hispanics, 70% discuss crime often; among whites, that drops to 49%.
In Macon, a city where African-American residents comprise 41% of the population, the report found that 63% of African-Americans follow crime news “very closely” compared to 43% of white residents. They also discuss crime at a higher rate (86%) than white residents (76%).
The Pew report, which was released in March 2015, found stark differences in crime news habits based on socioeconomic factors, too. Residents who are less wealthy and less educated tend to discuss crime news at a higher rate than their counterparts.
In Sioux City and Denver, women were found to follow crime news at about the same rate, although female residents of the Iowa city were more likely to discuss that news. There were no significant gender-based differences in how often Macon residents discussed local crime.
The Pew report followed an announcement by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in January that showed an overall drop in the number of violent crimes and property crimes reported during the first six months of 2014. Of note, the number of reported murders was down 6% compared with the first half of 2013, robberies decreased 10.3% and burglaries fell 14%.
The continued interest in crime news shows that residents may not be aware that crime, particularly acts of violence, has continued to decline since the 1990s.
The Pew Research Center, in a 2013 report, found that homicides involving firearms plummeted 49% between the peak year of 1993 and 2010. However, 82% of Americans believed the number of gun-related crimes had increased or remained unchanged during the same period.