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Red States Have Higher Crime Rates Than Blue States

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A Smart Politics analysis of the recently released 2008 Uniform Crime Reports finds that red states across the nation have both higher violent and property crime rates than blue states, across several measures of partisanship.

The average violent crime rate (murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault) in 2008 for the 28 states that voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential election was 389 incidents per 100,000 residents. The average violent crime rate for the 22 states that voted for John McCain was 412 incidents per 100,000 residents - or a 5.8 percent higher incidence of violent crime.

For example, 2 of the top 3 states with the highest violent crime rates in the nation in 2008 voted for McCain: South Carolina (#1) and Tennessee (#3). (Nevada was #2).

The difference was even more pronounced for property crimes (burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft). Obama states had an average property crime rate of 2,989 incidents per 100,000 residents, with McCain states averaging a rate of 3,228 - or an 8.0 percent higher incidence of property crime.

Eight of the top 11 states with the highest property crime rates voted for McCain: Arizona (#1), South Carolina (#2), Alabama (#4), Tennessee (#6), Georgia (#7), Texas (#8), Arkansas (#10), and Louisiana (#11).

These crime rate findings hold despite the fact that blue states have a higher population of residents in urban areas, which tend to have higher crime rates than rural areas. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2000 Census of Population and Housing, Population and Housing Unit Counts, the average statewide percentage of residents living in urban areas in the Obama states was 78.0 percent, compared to a statewide average of just 64.6 percent in the McCain states.

The red state/blue state crime data split also holds true across other measures of statewide partisan groupings.

For example, a Smart Politics analysis of partisan control of state legislatures finds the 27 states with Democratic-controlled legislatures with an average violent crime rate of 390 incidents per 100,000 residents. The average violent crime rate for the 14 states with Republican-controlled legislatures was 11.1 percent higher, at 433 incidents per 100,000 residents. (The rate was lowest among eight states with split partisan control - at 382).

There was also a double-digit percentage difference for property crime rates among the states with Democratic and Republican controlled legislatures. For Democratic-controlled states, the property crime rate was 3,044 incidents per 100,000 residents compared to 3,351 incidents per 100,000 residents for Republican-controlled states - or a 10.1 percent higher rate under GOP legislative control.

The differences in the rate of violent and property crimes between states along partisan lines by control of the governor's office were less stark, but still pointed in the same direction. The 22 states with Republican governors had a 0.4 percent higher violent crime rate in 2008 (400 incidents per 100,000 residents) than the 28 states with Democratic governors (398) as well as a 6.0 percent higher property crime rate (3,196 for GOP states and 3,014 for Democratic states).

So here is the chicken and egg question: are states with high crime rates electing Republicans because the GOP is perceived to be tougher on crime and thus are more likely to take action to fix the state's crime problems, or are Republican policies to combat crime proving less effective than Democratic policies and thus resulting in higher crime rates?

One thing is for certain: 2008 is not an aberration.

Looking back to the 2004 Presidential election, the 19 states that voted for Democrat John Kerry had an average violent crime rate in 2004 of 361 incidents per 100,000 residents. The 31 states that voted for George W. Bush had an average violent crime rate that year of 419 incidents per 100,000 residents - or a 16.3 percent higher rate. Bush states also had an 18.6 percent higher rate of property crimes in 2004 (3,648 incidents per 100,000 residents) than the Kerry states (3,077).

There are, to be sure, many other variables to be considered other than partisanship when examining the different rates of crime between states. For example, red states tend to be less affluent than blue states. The average statewide per capita income in 2008 for the 28 states voting for Obama was 19.4 percent higher ($45,752) than in the 22 states voting for McCain ($38,333).

The per capita income difference was still present, although less pronounced, when grouping states by partisan control of the legislature and the governor's office. States with Democratic-controlled legislatures have an 11.1 percent higher per capita income ($44,470) than states with Republican-controlled legislatures ($40,018). States with Democratic governors had a 2.5 percent higher per capita income in 2008 ($42,955) than those with Republican governors ($41,892).

Red State vs. Blue State Crime Rates by Different Partisan Groupings

Partisan grouping
Dem
Rep
% Difference
2008 Pres. Vote: violent
389.2
411.8
+5.8
2008 Pres. Vote: property
2,988.8
3,228.0
+8.0
 
 
 
 
2004 Pres. Vote: violent
360.5
419.4
+16.3
2004 Pres. Vote: property
3,076.6
3,647.5
+18.6
 
 
 
 
Legislature: violent
390.0
433.3
+11.1
Legislature: property
3,043.9
3,350.6
+10.1
 
 
 
 
Governor: violent
398.4
400.0
+0.4
Governor: property
3,014.1
3,195.7
+6.0
Note: "Dem" and "Rep" columns indicate the crime rate per 100,000 residents. Uniform Crime Reports data compiled by Smart Politics.

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27 Comments


  • It is clear to me that the red states have citizens that take personal initiative and self reliance very seriously. They have a criminal element that is not afraid to go to work. As such they "pull themselves up by their boot straps and "getter done"....

    Where as the blue states have a more socialist attitude. As such the criminal element is not as motivated to "getter done" They sit at home and wait for the mail..... (lite snark)

  • Interesting anaylsis that flies in the face of a frequently emailed mostly false urban legend. The email based on it has been updated for the 2008 election and used as fodder for letters and blog posts.

    Despite Hamline law professor Joseph Olson repeated objections to the emailed item falsely attributed to him, there doesn't seem to be any stopping this one. Nonetheless, thanks for adding another fact-based analysis for us legend watchers.

    The earlier version of the tale was published as a LTE in a Jackson County, MN newspaper in 2008, as I noted on Bluestem Prairie at the time of publication.

  • It is good that you point out this is a chicken-and-egg problem. Only an idiot would claim to know the answer to that question, so I can assume we will be hearing lots of talk show hosts who claim to know. In the meantime I find the relationship between voting and mean income at least as interesting. According to some rhetoric, all the states with people earning income should be red as their harder working, more self sufficient folks vote for good old red-state lower-taxes-at-any-cost politicians. Your numbers seem to suggest otherwise.

  • "There are, to be sure, many other variables to be considered other than partisanship when examining the different rates of crime between states."

    Gosh, d'ya think?

    Seriously - you (pl?) omitted a VERY key bit of context in selecting your sample set for this "analysis". One that skews the numbers beyond any usefulness in comparing party affiliation and crime in any meaningful way, and makes any conclusions drawn (as you've drawn them) downright irresponsible.

    Care to guess what it is?

    Because I'm going to post about this tomorrow.

  • I lied. I posted the first of three parts of my response today:

    http://www.shotinthedark.info/wp/?p=5425

    Part II tomorrow, Part III Friday.

  • > I posted the first of three parts of my response today:

    Mitch at Shot in the Dark does raise a legitimate point that the UCR cautions against making some comparisons, particularly from community-to-community, but statewide comparisons are also mentioned. However, the UCR isn't suggesting that no comparisons can be made. For example, the number of murders in a given state (one of the four components to the violent crime measure) is a fairly known quantity, and therefore, one can express with confidence that the homicide rate in, say, Nevada, is much higher than that of North Dakota.

    Moreover, almost all of the data presented in this article (there are a few states used as illustrations), is aggregate data -- combining states into general categories along dichotomous lines ('red' and 'blue'). The process of aggregating, statewide, and, in this case, across many states, tends to reduce the statistical significance that variations local law enforcement agencies may have in the reporting of crime in their communities on the UCR data.

  • Eric,

    Your point about aggregate data is a valid one.

    So my question is not just why use aggregate data...

    ...but why choose the aggregation that you chose?

    I ran Part II this morning. Part III is tomorrow.

  • What is being projected here? That a population that leans right is more prone to crime? Do you really believe that?

    Are you Political Scientist(s) who seek the truth? Academic's who ply their trade seeking knowledge, wherever that might lead?

    I sent you an email requesting the raw data for the state of Missouri (my home state) that you used in your analysis. I was very skeptical of your results; they just didn’t make sense to me. I wanted to look at the data myself. I received no response. Do you shrink from critical review?

    There are many ways to look at data. You should have asked the question that you allude to in your report honestly, that is, do right leaning political populations trend towards more or less crime then left leaning populations? That seems to be what you want to say. That proposition can be tested very easily.

    Not having your data I went to the authoritative sources for Missouri at:

    http://www.sos.mo.gov/enrmaps/20081104/pres_map.asp?oTypeID=1&Friday, December 04, 2009

    For election data by county and to:

    http://www.mshp.dps.mo.gov/MSHPWeb/SAC/data_and_statistics_ucr_query%20-%20backup.html

    For crime data by county.

    Here are the results (McCain won MO by a mere 3,903 votes out of 2,925,205 votes cast, .1% of the votes cast):

    101 MO Counties voted as ‘red’ which means they trended towards McCain by at least more than 5%, 5 Counties voted as ‘blue’ for Obama by the same measure and, 9 counties voted as ‘purple’ for either candidate by less than 5% either way.

    Red County population is 2,896,938, they cast 873,847 votes for McCain and 552,454 votes for Obama (49.2% voted). They suffered 8,738 violent crime incidents in 2008 for a crime rate per 100,000 people of 302. The Red Counties voted ‘red’ bias by a measure of 22.5%, McCain over Obama.

    Blue County population is 2,317,989, they cast 411,635 votes for McCain and 728,913 votes for Obama (49.2% voted). They suffered 19,205 violent crime incidents in 2008 for a crime rate per 100,000 people of 829. The Red Counties voted ‘blue’ bias by a measure of 27.8%, Obama over McCain.

    Purple County population is 573,041, they cast 160,332 votes for McCain and 160,544 votes for Obama (56% voted). They suffered 1,617 violent crime incidents in 2008 for a crime rate per 100,000 people of 282. The Purple County bias was negligible, only 212 votes more for Obama then McCain.

    What conclusion may be drawn? Certainly, no assertion of extraordinary criminal behavior by right leaning populations can be made from this analysis. The Blue Counties have a crime rate that is 2.72 TIMES that of Red Counties in Missouri.

    Here is another tidbit: The two major cities in Missouri, St. Louis and Kansas City voted red by a margin of 149,349 McCain to 343,749 to Obama showing a red/blue bias of 39.4%. The crime rate for these two dense Democratic bastions in Missouri was a combined rate of 1,307. A crime rate 4.3 times that of the Red Counties.

    Liars. Shame on you.

    Ps. I’d be happy to send my raw data (excel file) to your web site to be posted and analyzed for errors…

  • One thing that came out in my analsys of Missouri was the high crime rate we had as a state relative to the numbers you report. With a population of 5,787,968 we had 29,560 incidents of violent crime for a rate of 511 per 100,000 capita. I wonder, if you colored states like Missouri as 'purple' because of the small .1% margin for McCain how your 'results' would have turned out. How much do states like Missouri skew your numbers?

    Of course, with out St. Louis and Kansas City crime and populations, an attractive idea for many Missourians (just kidding...), the Missouri crime rate would be 312, more in line with the overall numbers. Remember, these two cities voted 39.4% more for Obama than McCain.

  • The red state / blue state stats that really are important are the military death rates in Iraq and Afgahnistan per 100,00. This shows who is actually paying and will pay for the surges.

  • RED STATES HAVE LOWER VIOLENT CRIME RATES

    Learn how to do a basic correlation study: all states are not equally red and blue. The exact opposite is true.

    http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2629997/red_states_have_lower_violent_crime.html?cat=47

  • I'm not sure if the title of this article should be "Red States Have Higher Crime Rates Than Blue States". Maybe it should be "States become Red in the hopes of curtailing high crime"

    Republicans have always had a staunch and more hard nosed approach to crime and punishment, more so than the democrats. Is it so inconceivable to assume that areas with higher crime may choose to line themselves with them in the hopes that it could be successful in creating change?

  • Makes sense to me. In general, Blue states tend to have citizens who have completed higher levels of education, as well as generally putting more funding into schools (through higher taxes) and putting more cultural importance on education. Obviously there is no magic panacea to combat crime, poverty, and general ignorance and bigotry, but education comes pretty close in closing the gap between economic class differences.



  • Very simple. Crime is higher in red states because there are more criminals and that is because of:

    1. more poverty, fewer programs to mitigate it
    2. more drug abuse, fewer programs to treat it
    3. abortions are less available, so there are more unwanted children, badly raised children, children in poverty, children with behavioral defects
    4. guns are more available and more prevalent
    5. more racism and a wider economic divide
    6. less educational opportunity and lower education levels
    7. toxins are more prevalent causing diseases such as lead and mercury poisoning that can create behavioral defects before or after birth.
    All seven are direct results of Republican policies or existing problems never solved by Republican policies. Period!


  • Just wrong. Red states have been around for decades, not a new thing. So even if you were right, all you've proven is that "harder nosed" Republican policies (a complete fiction, meant to disguise racism/fascism) have been a spectacular failure, and have actually INCREASED crime. New York city, Boston, Philadelphia, etc had more crime too--until the Civil Rights Act. Since then, down down down.

  • Nice job trying to prove crime is a "good thing". Shows initiative!

    No, "socialism" creates opportunities for lifting yourself OUT of poverty and crime, to get a "real" job. Which is why the bluest areas of the country have the lowest unemployment, and vice versa. The red states just keep you down--American Fascism. I'd rather have socialism than fascism, especially since the former is a myth and the latter a 30-year-old fact.

  • Very little diffence that statistically means nothing. I wont lose any sleep over a bunch of nonsense like this.

  • These are conviction rates of crimes per capita. If you look at crimes reported you will find the opposite is true. If you live in a red state you are less likely to be a victim of a crime, but if you are. The perp. is more likely to get convicted. In a blue state you are more likely to be a victim, and the perp. is more likely to get away with it. So depending on what statistics you look at. Conviction rate, or crimes reported rate. You will get different statistics of what states have more crime.

  • If you actually believe what you wrote, you just are another mindless sheep brainwashed by the media.

  • This article (and all articles comparing red states and blue states) seems to miss a key point: within every state, the urban areas vote more liberal and rural areas vote more conservative. You'll see this pattern even in states like Texas and California. That being said, it might be possible that fiscal policy in red states results in more crime due to lack of social safety nets (desperation) and/or lack of support for education.

  • You didn't have to let us know you lied! Of course you lied. It's what conservatives HAVE to do to justify their failed ideas and fairytale solutions.

  • what an utterly pointless and meaningless article based on absurd statistics. How anyone can consider this factual is bizarre. Just because a states electoral votes went one way or another has nothing to do with the party affiliation of the individuals that actually committed the crimes or who even voted. That would be a worthwhile statistical analysis, instead of this garbage that proves nothing other than you wanted to do a report that took 30 seconds worth of google research and offered no intellectual challenge, and was not a threat to your emotional attitude that all republicans are evil. This is a shameless charade.

  • Please check your facts.

    Yes, Red States have higher crime rates only because of metropolitan areas, which are significantly Blue counties.

    For example: St. Louis County, St. Louis Missouri has 100 violent crimes per 1000 but Franklin county has 10 violent crimes per 1000

  • I just read a post claiming the opposite, and just intuitivly felt that it had to be wrong. Republicans just have a more macho culture, and that leads to more crime. More guns, more fist fights, more domestic violence, more support of a strong military, and the death penalty, and more prisons, more police and more criminals, and more quoting of those verses in the Bible that stress vengence and hell fire and intolerence. And more racism, and less compassion for the poor, thus more desire to cut welfare programs. And more drinking. And more listening to radio and TV shows that are realy, realy angry. And more killing. It all goes together. It's the culture.

  • SERIOUSLY!?

    Think about it for ONE SECOND.

    THINK!

    Is your typical HOOD RAT piece of human TRASH, a Republican or Democrat?

    How many REPUBLICAN gang members, drug dealers, pimps, prostitutes and violent criminals are running the streets these days?

    Be honest now. It's just a common sense question and EVERYONE KNOWS the answer.

    Should I even have to ASK?

    REALLY?

    Do you REALLY THINK that your average GANG MEMBER is a "GOP"? FOR REAL!

    How about your average WELFARE RAT, drug dealer? Super Conservative... RIGHT?

    Your average "bling lovin'", McDonalds muching Pimps n' hos? Big Republicans for sure!

    You have yourself demonstrated my point because you are CLEARLY HIGH ON CRACK if you think that. Then again... MAYBE BATH SALTS.

    Not that they're aren't Republicans who commit crimes, but virtually ALL street crimes are committed by LIBERALS! Conservative neighborhoods have drastically LOWER crime rates. They're generally filled with people who dislike living in piles of garbage & graffiti. They dislike having "hos" and pimps selling crack on the street corner & they dislike having gang members hanging out near them bumping their gangsta crap at all hours of the day & night. In other words, MOST (not all but MOST) make SOME EFFORT TO NOT LIVE LIKE ANIMALS.

    A "Liberal neighborhood" is another term for THE GHETTO. You know it. I know it. Everyone knows it. Now please ADMIT IT to yourself and stop living in FANTASY LAND.

  • Well, the Republicans lie, some of the cities included in their study like the city of Orange never dealt with gang violent and Orange is not that republican anymore, its more uprupe. it actually has a higher than average crime rate for Orange County. There are Mexican gangs but Republicans ignore this. The lowest crime rates are in Marin and Ventura not Orange County. Orange County ties with Santa Clara for crime rate, they both have low afro-american populatoin and lots of Hispanics and Asians compareed to the Us average whch will effect crime stats.

  • True, for example Bakersfield actually has lot higher crime rate than San Fran but the Republicans didn't adjust for population size. Bakersfield has a lot of poor Hispanic gangs which San Fran doesn't. Also, whites tend to have higher crime rates in Bakersfield. San Fran is around 800,000 while Bakersfield is 400,000. In fact Kern county has some of the highest violent crime rates and property rates in California but saying there is 3 murders in Bakersfield or 7 in San Fran doesn't take in account the population difference.

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