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Decision 2024

The resulting data provides a roadmap for a campaign message that resonates with large majorities of Republican primary voters and identifies messaging pitfalls to avoid.


Winning on Safety and Crime


Improving public safety and the justice system offers candidates a winning message:  69% of conservative Republicans think the criminal justice system is working either “not too well” or “not well at all.”

Polling and focus groups conducted between April and June 2023 explored the conservative GOP voting base’s opinions and views regarding public safety, crime, and campaign messaging. The resulting data provides a roadmap for a campaign message that resonates with large majorities of Republican primary voters and identifies messaging pitfalls to avoid.

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Part I: Support Law Enforcement

For the GOP base, every winning message on safety and justice starts with strong support for law enforcement – this is the baseline and the confirmation bias. Support for law enforcement was the most universally endorsed sentiment in focus groups and required the least amount of elaboration from either the group moderator or each other.87% of GOP respondents told the pollsters, “Calls to ‘defund the police’ are misguided and do not work in the real world.

We should instead adequately fund police departments to ensure police have the resources and training to prevent and solve serious and violent crimes,” either perfectly or nearly perfectly matched their views.

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Part II: Demand Accountability

Virtual and in-person focus groups held the final week of June 2023 showed a pervasive frustration among Republican voters across all demographic lines: Americans are tired of offenders not being held accountable for their actions. Republican voters feel helpless when confronted by news stories about liberal prosecutors who won’t prosecute and criminals who commit offense after offense with seemingly no consequences.Republican voters respond strongly to a candidate who will demand accountability
of public officials and encourage punishment for serious crimes.

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Part III: Focus on Rehabilitation

Conservative voters across age and gender demographics express skepticism for campaign promises that are either “tough on crime” or “smart on crime.” The Republicans in our focus groups responded positively to solutions that address root problems to crime and create a pathway for rehabilitation and second chances.81% of focus group participants supported the following statement:
“The criminal justice system should do more than just punish. Accountability is important, and violent and dangerous criminals must be incarcerated. But the system must also address factors that contribute to crime — such as poverty, a lack of education or job skills, mental health, homelessness, and addiction — to prevent crime before it happens. Incarcerated people must have the chance to get the skills and training necessary to pursue a better path after prison.”

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The survey was fielded online from in English from March 30–April 2, 2023 among a sample of N=2,155 registered voters nationwide, with a base sample of 2,005 registered voters and an additional oversample of 150 conservative registered voters for a total of 828 conservatives in the sample, using non-probability sampling.

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First Step Act Fact Sheet

The policies of the 2018 First Step Act align closely with the views of an overwhelming majority of Republican voters. Attacks on the First Step Act by Republican candidates are viewed by Republican voters as political posturing. The policies contained in the First Step Act “almost perfectly matched” or were “pretty close” to views of 86% of Republicans polled from April-June 2023. Additionally, focus group conversation among older Republican men in the last week of June exposed a sentiment that attacks on the First Step Act were “attacks on Trump” and mere “political posturing.”

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