A recent study has noted that an individual's opinion on crime may vary depending on the political situation that prevailed at the time they were growing up.
The political context the respondents grew up in, between the ages of 15 to 25, is the time when people form key opinions and are most sensitive to social events, the study further noted.
Researchers analysed data on fear of crime and antisocial behaviour from the British Crime Survey in England and Wales spanning 30 years. In doing so, they were able to estimate the net effects of individual ageing, the historical period in which the survey was conducted and the political generations the respondents belonged to.
They found a strong connection between a respondent's current crime fears and their political generation. For example, those who grew up under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher (1979-1990) or John Major (1990-1997) expressed the greatest level of worry about domestic burglary - the same generation who witnessed a dramatic rise in property crime during the 1980s. Meanwhile, the Wilson/ Callaghan generation expressed the highest levels of worry about robbery and mugging, which was a key concern for politicians, policymakers, and journalists at the time.
One of the paper's authors, Stephen Farrall said, "The pronouncements leading politicians make about a crime can have a lasting impact on the crime fears of young adults. Political and popular debates about crimes that are prevalent in one's youth appear to impact the fears those individuals report through adulthood and into middle age. In this respect, our narratives of crime and disorder tell us something important about the enduring influence of our political history and the stories we hear about the crime."
Overall, this study shows that citizens have a greater tendency to fear the crimes that were the focus of political debate during their youth. This effect persists into adulthood. The results reveal that crime fears can linger and that the processes by which people from their political values can cast a long-term influence on their attitude about crime.
The full findings are present in the journal- British Journal of Criminology