The FBI released its annual report on national crime in 2021, showing murders slightly increasing above 2020's historic numbers. The data comes just a month ahead of midterms and as voters say crime is one of their top concerns as they head to the polls.
"No question that the GOP has an advantage on crime, as [Democrats] are still saddled with the 'defund' movement from two years ago. Both crime and immigration could play important secondary roles in the campaign, especially if the inflation issue begins to fade. Further, crime is a top concern among suburban women - a key constituency this fall," Neil Newhouse, pollster and co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies, told Fox News Digital earlier this month.
The FBI released its annual crime data on Wednesday for 2021, which estimated that murders slightly rose last year compared to 2020's historically bloody year.
Murders spiked by nearly 30% in 2020 as the pandemic upended society in unprecedented ways, and as protests and riots demanding that police be defunded erupted during the summer that year. The data marked the largest single-year increase in killings since the agency began tracking the crimes.
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The murder trend continued in 2021, with FBI data showing murders increased from 22,000 in 2020 to an estimated 22,900 in 2021, marking a 4.3% increase.
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For voters, crime looms large ahead of Election Day on Nov. 8.
Polls have shown that the vast majority of Americans see violent crime as a major problem ahead of Election Day, including in a Politico-Morning Consult poll published this week and similar findings from Gallup last month. Crime is often joined by the economy and inflation as top concerns for voters.
The managing editor of Sabato's Crystal Ball, a campaign and elections newsletter from the University of Virginia (UVA) Center for Politics, told Fox News Digital that it's unclear whether the FBI report specifically will make any difference to the campaigns but noted that Republicans have leaned into hammering crime on the campaign trail.
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"It's been clear in recent weeks from advertising that Republicans are really focusing on crime in their campaign messaging," UVA's Kyle Kondik said. "That's been particularly the case in the Pennsylvania and Wisconsin Senate races, and it is possible - these things are hard to prove - that it has helped Republicans improve their standing in those races. Mehmet Oz is still behind but making up some ground while Ron Johnson appears to have taken the lead. Democrats feel like they have an effective response to these ads by using law enforcement in their own ads."
The FBI data show violent crime overall fell by 1% in 2021 compared to 2020, 1,326,600 reports in 2020 to 1,313,200 last year. And robberies fell by a notable 8.9% in 2021 compared to the year prior.
Other data in the report noted sharp increases in certain demographics affected by violent crimes. The data show, for example, there was a roughly 26% increase in the number of victims of violent crimes who were between the ages of 50 to 59 from 2020 to 2021.
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The FBI data this year, however, is complicated by the fact it's based on estimates due to the agency switching to a new recording program called the National Incident-Based Reporting System, which offers a more detailed view of crimes but was unable to show a complete report.
The new data collection methodology failed to receive full data sets from almost 40% of police departments across the country - including massive departments in cities such as New York City and Los Angeles. About 9,700 law enforcement agencies did not provide full reports to the FBI by the March 2022 deadline, Reuters reported. Before the switch to the new methodology, the FBI was able to receive data from more than 95% of law enforcement agencies.
"Violent crime has surged in this country under the Biden administration," Texas Republican Rep. Michael Burgess told Reuters after the FBI crime report was released, adding that the new data is "very concerning."