The Potluck

Americans think Minneapolis is less safe than it used to be

By: - August 30, 2023 1:45 pm

A Minneapolis police squad car in May 2021. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

Americans’ opinions of Minneapolis have taken a hit in recent years, driven by the protests and riots in response to the police murder of George Floyd and a subsequent right-wing campaign to paint the city as violent and crime-ridden, according to data released last week by Gallup.

Fifty-eight percent of national respondents said they considered Minneapolis “safe to live in or visit,” according to the survey, while 36% rated it unsafe. Back in 2006, close to 80% of American respondents said Minneapolis was a safe place to live.

While Democrats’ views of the city have remained stable, Republican opinions have deteriorated considerably, according to the Gallup report. Just 41% of Republicans now call the city safe, compared with 76% of Democrats. 

A similar pattern holds for most other cities surveyed.

Americans’ views on crime have long been untethered from the realities of it. Survey respondents consistently believe that crime is increasing, even when it is going down. Americans typically overestimate their odds of being victimized by a factor of 10.

Media reporting practices, especially local news outlets that aggressively report on crime, are a major reason why Americans’ views are so out of touch with reality. There’s a political dimension too, with Republicans consistently more vocal than Democrats about crime.

Those two dimensions often overlap, with partisan media outlets painting exaggerated portrayals of criminal behavior to achieve political goals. The police murder of George Floyd in 2020, coupled with the unrest that followed, provided fertile ground for partisan sensationalism. 

In the wake of those protests, conservative internet personalities and national media stars descended on Minneapolis as looting and vandalism spread across the city. Then-President Donald Trump went as far as to promote extrajudicial killing, tweeting “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”  

None of this is to say the city is without its challenges. Like most major American cities, violent crime in Minneapolis increased with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, partially reversing a decades-long decline. 

Relationships between police and the people they serve deteriorated in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, with repercussions still being felt more than three years after the fact. While much of the violent crime wave has since receded, certain types of criminality, like auto thefts, continue to be more prevalent than before. 

Minneapolis nevertheless remains one of the safer large cities in the country in the eyes of many Americans, according to the Gallup data. Fewer than half of respondents believe cities like Philadelphia, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles are safe to live in. 

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Christopher Ingraham
Christopher Ingraham

Christopher Ingraham covers greater Minnesota and reports on data-driven stories across the state. He's the author of the book "If You Lived Here You'd Be Home By Now," about his family's journey from the Baltimore suburbs to rural northwest Minnesota. He was previously a data reporter for the Washington Post.