CAPS - Harris Poll on Crime and Safety in America

July 27, 2017

New Harvard CAPS - Harris Poll looks in depth at public opinion on crime and safety in America.

Poll also tracks the state of the county and the current healthcare debate.

The sixth Harvard CAPS - Harris Poll, released on July 27, 2017, focused on crime and safety in the U.S. The poll results show mixed perceptions about the country by U.S. voters: a continued optimism in the economy while most voters are concerned by the direction on the country and the direction of the Trump Presidency. The results also highlight evolving perceptions on healthcare, violence and crime. Highlights from the poll include:

State of the Country

  • Majority of voters continue to feel the country is on the wrong track (54%), with only 32% believing it is on the right track. When it comes to the economy, 44% of Americans believe it is on the right track, versus 41% who believe it is on the wrong track. 
  • A majority of Americans, 62%, continue to believe the economy is strong.
  • Voters list healthcare (43%), economy and jobs (36%), and terrorism and national security (35%) as the most important issues facing the country today.

Trump Presidency

  • President Trump’s approval rating is at 44%. A majority of voters approve of his handling of fighting terrorism (54%), stimulating jobs (52%), and the economy (50%). They disapprove of his performance on immigration (53%) and foreign affairs (58%). The President receives the lowest ratings on administering the government (40% approval vs. 60% disapproval).
  • 59% of voters believe the Trump presidency is on a bad course compared to 41% percent who believe it is following a good course.
  • Of those, 77% vs. 23% believe that the Trump presidency is on a bad course because of his temperament, while 65% vs. 35% believe that it is on a good course because of its policies.
  • When prompted with a list of proposals for how President Trump could improve his Presidency, voters responded that he should focus on jobs, taxes, and infrastructure, stop tweeting, and stick to his campaign promises.

Focus on jobs, taxes, and infrastructure


Stop tweeting


Stick to his campaign message and shore up his base of voters, doubling down on his campaign promises


Change his tone to be less combative


Reshuffle his White House team to replace campaign advisers with people more experienced in government


Have more dinners and meetings with Democrats and Republicans in Congress to try to get agreement on legislation


Reduce his criticism of the media


Go on a nationwide tour to explain his policies for jobs and the economy


Hold more press conferences and give more TV interviews


None of the above would improve his presidency



  • 53% of voters believe Obamacare is working, versus 47% who say it is failing.
  • Respondents are split on whether Obamacare should be repealed with 49% favoring the move, and 51% opposing it.
  • Democrats have an advantage over Republicans and President Trump when it comes to the issue; 52% trust Democrats over Trump (27%) and the GOP (21%) to handle is the issue appropriately. 76% of voters want the Democrats to unveil their own plan to improve Obamacare.
  • In general, American voters want more compromise on the issue, 50% want Republicans to bring the Democrats on board, compared to 30% who favor an immediate repeal with a two year replacement window and 20% who believe the Republicans and the Administration should drop the issue and move on. 86% also want Democrats to work with Republicans.

Crime and Safety

  • Drugs are seen as a leading contributor to crime by nearly half of voters (46%). Other top contributors are lack of jobs (33%), lack of moral values (32%), poverty (29%), and gangs (29%).
  • A majority of voters feel safe and secure in their homes at night (89%), however a plurality believe crime in America is on the rise on both a local and national level.
  • Voters are evenly split on whether the criminal justice system is biased against minorities. And a majority (55%) says the criminal justice system is too lenient on crime.
  • 57% of voters have an unfavorable opinion of the Black Lives Matter movement, and 56% believe that police are too quick to use force. 64% say race affects the use of force.

A full list of the findings can be found at the links below and at

July 2017 Poll: Key Results

July 2017 Poll: Topline Memo

July 2017 Poll: Crosstabs Memo

The survey was conducted by The Harris Poll online within the United States between July 19-24, 2017 among 2,032 registered voters.

The results reflect a nationally representative sample. Results were weighted for age within gender, region, race/ethnicity, marital status, household size, income, employment, and education where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. The poll was supervised by Harvard Professor of Government and CAPS Faculty Director Stephen Ansolabehere, Mark Penn, and Dritan Nesho. Stephen Ansolabehere has 25 years experience conducting survey research and experimental research in the field of political science. Mark Penn is a former presidential pollster and has 40 years of polling experience. Dritan Nesho is a fellow at Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science.

Harris Insights and Analytics conducts the poll based on online methodologies they have been using for more than a decade and the results are donated to the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University.

The results are represented as the results of the questions asked according to The Harris Poll methodology.