Voters Keenly Aware of America’s Massive Prison Problems

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) says nearly 2.2 million adults were held in America’s prisons and jails at the end of 2016. Seventy-eight percent (78%) of American voters  are aware that the U.S. currently incarcerates more people than any other country in the world.

A national survey found broad awareness of the nation’s challenging prison problems. Eighty-three percent (83%) realize that the number of people sent to prison has risen sharply over the last 30 years. Two-thirds (67%) recognize that most people in prison in America have been convicted of non-violent crimes (see question wording and crosstab results).

Seventy-seven percent (77%) know that  “half of the people in federal prisons are there for violating drug crimes.”

Drug laws are in particular focus right now as Canada recently became the second country in the world to legalize marijuana nationally. As part of that move, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he’s looking into widespread pardons and prison releases for Canadians convicted of cannabis possession. A solid majority of American voters believe the popular drug should be legalized in the United States as well.

Data released earlier showed that 67% are aware that black men receive stricter sentences than white men convicted of the same crime.

This national survey of 1,001 Registered Voters was conducted October 11-12, 2018 by and HarrisX, a leading research company specializing in online surveys (see Methodology). The Margin of Error is +/- 3.1 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.

As I write in my new book, The Sun is Still Rising, the American people are the leading force for positive change in the nation. The culture leads and the politicians lag behind. It’s likely that the public’s understanding of the prison problem could form the basis for significant bipartisan and cross-cultural support for reform.

Prison reform was one item on the agenda during Kanye West’s highly-publicized visit with President Trump at the White House last week. Earlier this year, West’s wife Kim Kardashian helped work with President Trump to secure a commuted life sentence and release for 63-year-old grandmother Alice Marie Johnson.

All data presented by is to enhance the public dialogue through data-driven analysis that explores the underlying currents of public opinion (read About Us). Receive the latest insights each day by signing up for Scott Rasmussen’s Morning Update

Neither Scott Rasmussen nor has any relationship with Rasmussen Reports® (see About Us).

Posted in Poll Results

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