Half Of All Americans View San Francisco As Unsafe New Poll Finds
San Francisco Mayor blames ‘right-wing attacks on the city, including in the media’
By Evan Symon, August 25, 2023 12:38 pm
According to a new Gallup poll released this week, only 52% of Americans rate San Francisco as safe anymore, freefalling from a previous poll only 15 years ago when the city scored one of the highest ratings and was viewed as one of the safest cities in the entire country.
Since the 2010’s, San Francisco has increasingly worsening conditions, with many calling their current situation a “doom loop.” A mammoth increase in crime, an increase in homelessness, a worsening drug addiction problem, an underfunded and undermanned police force, a criminal justice system that fails to punish most arrested criminals, a massive exodus of businesses and people from the city because of crime, and remaining businesses facing more and more security and safety costs, have been only some of the factors resulting in more and more people seeing San Francisco as a city in decline.
The reputation of San Francisco was only further cemented by the new Gallup poll. With a margin of error, the poll found that only 52% of Americans viewed San Francisco as safe, with 46% saying that it was unsafe. This was on par with Washington D.C., with only New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Detroit scoring lower.
Political party preference also showed a noticeable gap of view on the safety of the city. 74% of Democrats/Democratic leaning independents said that San Francisco was a safe city, compared to only 32% of Republicans, a difference of 42 percentage points. Only Seattle and Los Angeles had a higher difference, with Los Angeles coming in with 64% for Democrats and 21% of Republicans, resulting in a 43 percentage point difference.
Compared to a similar Gallup poll in 2006, San Francisco has also been in a freefall on safety. In October 2006, San Francisco scored a 70% on people ranking San Francisco as safe, coming in as one of the safest cities in America. Between 2006 and 2023, it has seen a massive 18 point drop, the second largest after only Chicago, which went from 41% in 2006 to 21% in 2023. Conversely, more Americans are also now viewing Los Angeles as safe, rising from 32% in 2006 to 41% in 2023 for a nine point gain.
San Francisco falls from 70% of Americans seeing the city as safe in 2006 to 52% in 2023
“Los Angeles’ current 41% safe rating is its highest to date and up 15 points since 1990,” Gallup said in their analysis. “On the other end of the spectrum, Chicago’s current 27% safe rating is down 20 points from 2006 but was similarly low in 1990. Between 1990 and 2001, Americans’ perception of Chicago as a safe city rose to 53%, where it remained until it fell slightly in 2006. Views of safety in San Francisco, Minneapolis and Seattle have all dropped precipitously since 2006 — from 15 to 18 points. These three cities, along with Chicago, have seen increases in crime in recent years. In 2006, San Francisco, Minneapolis and Seattle ranked among the highest in terms of perceived safety.”
The San Francisco Mayor’s Office responded to the poll shortly after it came out, saying that the low safety percentage was only there because of the partisan split because of the “pervasive impact of right-wing attacks on the city, including in the media.”
“The Mayor is laser focused on addressing our public safety challenges, especially around the spread of fentanyl,” said San Francisco mayoral spokesman Jeff Cretan. “We know our issues around property crime and drug dealing, but our violent crime rates remain lower than cities ranked higher on this list and have gone down since 2006.”
However, safety and security experts told the Globe on Friday that the large drop in perceived safety in San Francisco was to have been expected. According to them, many high profile incidents happening in recent years like the surge in Union Square robberies, a soaring homicide rate, and major stores like Whole Foods leaving locations after only one year in operation because of how rampant crime has become all contributed to the drop.
“52% actually seems high to me,” said Bay Area Security consultant and former policeman Frank Ma. “In terms of overall crime, it isn’t near where Chicago or Baltimore is at. But it is bad, and for most people living there, the worst they have ever seen. This isn’t about “right wing attacks in the media” or just focusing on the negatives. There’s only so much the city can have in excuses like that, and it is obviously working less and less.
“I mean, half of all Americans see San Francisco as not safe, with Los Angeles, which has always been seen as way more crime ridden, now starting to gain on San Francisco. LA’s reputation is improving, because they have made significant strides in crime reduction in the past several decades. They were seen as a gangland in the 80’s and 90’s, but they have risen above that reputation. Sadly, I can’t say the same for San Francisco.
“San Francisco has fallen, and the poll is only further proof of that.”
Other polls on the safety climate of San Francisco are expected to be released in the coming months.
Evan V. Symon is the Senior Editor for the California Globe. Prior to the Globe, he reported for the Pasadena Independent, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and was head of the Personal Experiences section at Cracked. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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