15 November 2012

National Policy Monitor offers good news to police and crime commissioners

Fear of crime has fallen to its lowest level for eight years, evidence from a new policy monitoring study based at the University of Essex has revealed. And those affected by crime are happier with the way the police deal with it.

As English and Welsh voters go to the polls to elect 41 new Police and Crime Commissioners, the findings suggest falling crime rates are influencing public attitudes, the study’s authors say. In April 2004 more than four out of 10 people felt fearful about crime, but by August 2012 that figure had fallen to less than one quarter.

Over a similar period, police recorded crime fell by 21 per cent from 11.6 million crimes per year to 9.1 million.

Satisfaction with the way police deal with crime has also risen. Eight years ago around 45 per cent of those affected by a crime were happy with the way police dealt with it, while 55 per cent were unhappy. By August 2012 those positions had reversed.

The figures form part of the first results from the National Policy Monitor, a new monthly survey which will track public attitudes on a wide range of policy issues. The findings are published today on the Society Central website.

Professor Paul Whiteley, Director of the National Policy Monitor, said changes in policing strategy could have contributed to increased public satisfaction with the services provided.

“It looks as if the reduction in crime that has occurred over the years is actually beginning to pay off,” he said.

A strategy of focusing on repeat offenders may have had a major effect, he suggested.
“If you have a small number of people committing huge amounts of crime, then by really targeting these recidivists you can bring the crime rate down, and it looks as if that’s been successful.”

The National Policy Monitor will track attitudes to crime and other areas of public policy – so in a year’s time it might be possible to say whether the new Police and Crime Commissioners have boosted public confidence.

By carrying out monthly polling as well as building on findings from earlier studies the NPM aims to create a weather-vane on how the public is reacting to government initiatives.

Other areas covered in the monthly internet poll of around 1,000 people will include health, social policy, income maintenance, education, security, defence, transport, the economy and relationships with the EU.

As well as asking people about their own experiences of dealing with public services such as the police and the health service, the study will track people’s broader feelings about those services – which are often quite different.

For instance, when asked if feel ‘confident’ or ‘uneasy’ about the health service, respondents are likely to say they feel uneasy. But when asked how they feel about their own medical treatment, they are much more likely to express satisfaction than dissatisfaction.

For more information please contact Fran Abrams, Managing Editor of Society Central, on 07939 262001 or fabrams@essex.ac.uk

Notes to editors

The National Policy Monitor is based at the University of Essex. Working with the polling organization YouGov, it will conduct monthly polling on public experiences of and attitudes to the delivery of policy in national and local government, as well as in selected areas of the private sector. It will encompass all the major domestic and foreign policy arenas.

Full details of the research can be found on the project website at http://www.essex.ac.uk/government/research/national_policy_monitor.aspx

The University of Essex has long been at the forefront of delivering excellent and policy-relevant data on an ongoing basis. The UK Household Longitudinal Study was managed by the university’s Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER), which now hosts Understanding Society, a world-leading study of the socio-economic circumstances and attitudes of 100,000 individuals in 40,000 British households. The National Policy Monitor will add to this body of knowledge by providing frequent, high-quality longitudinal data on public evaluations of policy delivery.

While conventional face-to-face survey methods take months or even years to bring evidence to policy-makers on the effects of policy change, the NPM will begin its evaluations as soon as a new policy is implemented. The NPM will also study public responses to influential political and economic events such as the recent financial crisis in the Euro-zone.

The NPR will build on work done in two earlier academic studies: the Dynamics of Party Support in Britain study, which was funded by the US National Science Foundation and which started in April 2004; and the British Election Study Continuous Monitoring Survey, funded by the ESRC, which ran from June 2008 to November 2012.

Data will be collected by a series of monthly internet-based surveys of the British population, with a cumulative panel of respondents being re-interviewed each year. Each monthly survey will contain about 1,500 respondents, and the study will run for five years, producing a cumulative file of about 90,000 respondents.

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