This alarming escalation in violence has ignited intense debates and discussions, pushing us to explore the profound and urgent reasons behind this surge in violence.
A recent report by Third Way, a think tank that bills itself as being “center-left,” has generated considerable attention by asserting that red states have had consistently experienced higher homicide rates than blue states over the past two decades.
However, a recently released paper from The Heritage Foundation reveals significant flaws in that argument. The left’s concealed narrative hides the reality of higher homicide rates in Democratic-leaning counties.
Crime Data Should Be Analyzed at Local Level
Aggregating local crime data to the state level overlooks the crucial fact that law enforcement and prosecutorial practices vary widely across local jurisdictions, often influenced by divergent political beliefs. Reporting results at the state level neglects the nuances of local law enforcement approaches and differing prosecution approaches, which can significantly affect crime rates.
A noteworthy example of that is Travis County, Texas, which was won by Democrats Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020. That county, situated in the traditionally Republican state of Texas and predominantly comprising the city of Austin, had initiated measures to reallocate more than one-third of resources from law enforcement to prioritize funding for COVID-19 and mental health services in 2021.
Travis County homicides saw a staggering 120% increase outside of Austin city limits in 2021, and the actual city of Austin now stands at 15th on a list of cities with the highest homicide rates in the United States.
A Different Story at the County Level
A different narrative emerges when looking at homicide rates by county. Some counties experience disproportionately high homicide rates, skewing the overall state averages.
It’s worth noting that these counties may have different political leanings, compared with the rest of their respective states.
Averaging homicide rates across counties, the data tells a different story. On average, counties that voted for Republican Donald Trump have a lower homicide rate, 4.06 per 100,000 people, while counties that voted for Biden have a higher rate of 6.52 per 100,000 people.
Accounting for Changing Electoral Results
Additionally, Third Way failed to consider changing electoral results over time. They hold red states and blue states constant based on their 2020 presidential election results.
That’s a problematic approach because electoral sentiment can change significantly over the years. For instance, Biden won Arizona in 2020, but the last Democrat to carry the state before that was Bill Clinton in 1996. Similarly, Trump won Florida in both 2016 and 2020, despite Democrat Barack Obama winning it in 2008 and 2012.
Correcting for changes in voting behavior over the years, the data shows a consistent trend. While red states do tend to have higher homicide rates than blue states, blue counties consistently have higher homicide rates than red counties.
Proceeding with Caution
Statistical analysis can be a powerful tool for informing public policy decisions, but it’s crucial to approach reports like Third Way’s critically. Upon closer examination, it becomes clear that the Third Way report paints an incomplete picture.
Americans want the high crime rates of recent years to go back down. Policymakers need to understand the problem properly before they can address it, and crime is a local problem that requires local solutions.
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