CBS Poll: Crime No. 1 Problem

The massacre at a Colorado high school has vaulted crime into the No. 1 spot among the most important problems facing the nation, according to a new CBS News poll.

Sixteen percent of Americans cite crime or youth-related crime as the top national issue. This number represents a significant increase since the shooting incident at Columbine High School. Prior to events in Colorado, only 4 percent named crime or youth crime as a pressing problem.

Public concern about violence has replaced concern about the conflict in Yugoslavia, which was mentioned by 17 percent in a CBS News poll conducted just last week, but by only 9 percent in this poll. Moral values are mentioned by 12 percent, up from 7 percent.

Lack of discipline was viewed as the No. 1 problem in schools, named by 25 percent of the public. This is up slightly from the poll conducted last week, when 21 percent mentioned it.

In a reflection of the heightened public awareness of youth crime, the proportion of Americans who view violence as the top problem in schools has risen to 14 percent, up from 5 percent last week.

Lack of parental involvement is also increasingly viewed as an area of concern, named by 12 percent now, up from 7 percent last week.

Sadly, the incident in Colorado is not viewed by the public as a random act of violence. Given that this is the ninth such school shooting over the past five years, the public views this violence as recurring.

Eighty percent of Americans expect that an incident like the one in Colorado will happen again, as opposed to 15 percent who say it won't be repeated.

When asked why they think the recent Colorado shooting occurred, 22 percent blame parental neglect. Lack of attention by school authorities or the police was blamed by 11 percent. About one in ten blamed the psychological problems of the students involved, or say that the students were angry, frustrated and alienated.

Less than one in twenty Americans named the availability of weapons, the Internet, or exposure to violence on television, in movies or in video games as reasons why the shooting occurred.


This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 450 adults, interviewed by telephone April 22, 1999. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus five percentage points.

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