A new countywide poll of registered voters conducted by Public Opinion Strategies for the Memphis and Shelby County Crime Commission shows strong support for law enforcement by both Memphis and suburban respondents. But gun violence is a major concern for both Memphis and suburban residents.
The poll, conducted September 18-22, 2021, included 425 registered voters, with 275 (65%) from Memphis. Countywide, the ethnic/racial breakdown was 48% white, 46% African American and 6% other. For city of Memphis respondents, the ethnic/racial breakdown was 58% African American, 37% white and 5% other. Countywide, the gender breakdown was 60% female and 40% male. Age ranges included 43% between 18–44, 33% between 45-64 and 24% 65 plus. (There was no significant statistical difference for Memphis respondents.)
In both Memphis and the rest of Shelby County, the pandemic ranks as the top priority with both men and women, black and white voters, voters younger than 45 and seniors. The pandemic comes in at 30%, but crime/public safety is second at 22%.
Under crime and public safety, gun violence dominates the list of concerns at 48%. Human trafficking comes in at 11%, and juvenile crime 10%. The large gap between gun violence and other categories of crime signifies that gun violence is the overriding major concern.
Police remain popular in the community with 62% of respondents rating them as doing an excellent/good job. However, the excellent/good rating for local police fell by 9 points since a similar poll conducted for the Crime Commission last year and dropped with nearly all subgroups. Specifically, local police have seen erosion in support from voters younger than 45 in Memphis and men without a college education.
This erosion may be tied to the concern about violent crime, in particular, gun violence. Only 48% of respondents gave police an excellent/good rating on protecting people from violent crime compared to 56% in last year’s poll, and 49% gave police a fair/poor rating compared to 39% in 2020’s poll.
The concern about gun violence and the erosion in the rating of police in addressing violent crime may, in turn, explain the overwhelming desire for more police officers. There continues to be high support for hiring more police officers with 81% of respondents, and a deep 59% strongly support more hiring. Every demographic subgroup supports hiring more police officers. This includes wide majorities of men (81%), women (82%), white voters (84%) and African American voters (80%). Overall, 79% of Memphis respondents and 85% from the rest of Shelby County support hiring more officers.
The poll findings show 73% of Shelby County voters support loosening the residency requirements for police officers and firefighters. 69% of Memphis voters agree.
An overwhelming 73% of respondents would like an increased law enforcement presence in their neighborhoods. 68% of white respondents and 78% of African American respondents want an increased law enforcement presence in their neighborhoods, as do 78% of Memphis respondents compared to 65% of respondents in the rest of the county.
“Gun violence is a major concern and working on strategies to reduce gun violence is a priority for the Crime Commission,” said Bill Gibbons, Crime Commission president. “This poll shows us that residents still strongly support our police officers, even though their job performance has slipped some since last year’s poll. Hiring more police officers is clearly important to voters.”
You can find a detailed public opinion poll report on the Crime Commission website at www.memphiscrime.org.
Public Opinion Strategies is a national research firm headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia. Founded in 1991, it has conducted more than 10 million interviews with voters and consumers in all 50 states and more than two dozen foreign countries. It has a track record of accurate polling in the Memphis and Shelby County community.
The Carter Malone Group is a public relations firm headquartered in Memphis, TN. The firm was founded in 2003 and worked with Public Opinion Strategies and the Crime Commission on poll development and analysis.
About the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission (www.memphiscrime.org): The Memphis Shelby Crime Commission is an independent, non-profit 501(c) (3) organization that spearheads development of and “quarterbacks” the work of a Safe Community Plan to prevent and reduce crime. It is funded primarily through the generous contributions of many private sector donors. Ben Adams, chairman emeritus of Baker Donelson law firm, serves as chair of the board, and Bill Gibbons serves as president of the Commission.
About the Safe Community Plan (www.memphiscrime.org): Launched in 2007, the Safe Community Plan, an action plan spearheaded by the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission, is a community-based crime prevention and reduction initiative. Implementation of the Safe Community Plan is chaired by Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich.