On Crime and Safety, Real Solutions Matter More to Voters Than Trump’s Convictions
Owning a "serious about safety" message is a more effective way to reach voters on crime than focusing on Trump's convictions.
June 20, 2024

Donald Trump was convicted of 34 felony counts after trial on May 30. Many Democrats seized upon this outcome to demonstrate their “law and order” bona fides, calling Trump a “convicted criminal” and criticizing Republicans for aligning with him. In June 2024, Vera Action and YouGov fielded message tests to examine the effectiveness of that messaging frame on voters as a way of addressing concerns about crime. Here are our key findings:

  • We compared a typical Republican “tough-on-crime” message against two different Democratic messages. One of the Democratic messages blasted Republicans for undermining the police while siding with Trump even after his criminal conviction, a message closely resembling the Biden campaign’s recent messaging seeking to capitalize on the guilty verdict in the Trump trial. The other Democratic message led with a “serious about safety” frame emphasizing investments and solutions to deliver  safety, accountability, and justice. We found that a Democratic candidate who leads with a “serious about safety” message outperforms a GOP candidate running on a “tough-on-crime” platform by eight points. However, a Democratic candidate who focuses on Trump’s recent criminal conviction and attacks the GOP for “protecting a convicted felon” loses by three points to the same GOP opponent.
  • A second test explored three different statements about crime: a “serious about safety” message on investments in community solutions to prevent crime; a message focused on declining crime rates and giving the police more resources; and a conservative message criticizing the “defund” movement and vowing to restore “law and order.” We found that a majority of respondents (51 percent) said that of the three statements, the “serious about safety” message came closest to their view, while one-third (33 percent) sided with the conservative “law and order” statement and just 12 percent selected the message on supporting the police and touting declining crime rates.

As Democrats consider how to approach public safety issues in their campaigns, this survey indicates that solutions-focused “serious about safety” messages resonate strongly with voters, while keeping the debate on which candidate is the most “tough on crime” appears to benefit Republicans.

Click here to read the full memo from Vera Action and YouGov.