Tip Sheets

Crime ads fail to convey complex nature of homicide trends

In these final weeks of the midterm elections, Republican candidates are unleashing a barrage of negative ads focused on crime and targeted against Democratic opponents. Such ads are long thought to be part of a strategy to portray Democrats as weak on crime, but some pollsters argue the strategy is particularly effective this year. Some Democrats have argued that Republicans are deploying scare tactics and racist dog whistles on purpose to mislead voters about their rivals.

Max Kapustin

Assistant professor of policy analysis and management

Max Kapustin, assistant professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell University’s Brooks School of Public Policy, cautions that we know very little about what policies, if any, contributed to a recent uptick in violent crime, and we know very little about which policies can reverse it.

Kapustin says: 

“We know that homicides rose by 30% in 2020 and likely continued rising since then, driven by an increase in shootings. We know much less about what caused this to happen or which policies can help reverse it. However, the fact that homicides increased nationwide— in cities and rural areas, places that have reformed bail laws and that haven't, and so on — suggests the answers may be more complex than what's often conveyed in our political discourse.”

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