July 26, 2016

Violence, Terrorism Trending Downward

By Marian L. Tupy
After the recent terror attacks in the United States and Western Europe, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan, it would be easy to conclude that the world is becoming more dangerous. The politicians and media have contributed to our growing sense of unease. Donald Trump claims that crime is rising, while Hillary Clinton speaks of a gun violence epidemic. Both, as Nick Gillespie shows, are inaccurate. In reality, many kinds of violence have become less common.

In the United States, the homicide rate fluctuated between 6.2 and 10.2 deaths per 100,000 people between 1967 and 1998. The rate dropped below 6 per 100,000 in 1999 and below 5 per 100,000 in 2010. The U.S. homicide rate for 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, was 4.5 per 100,000—the lowest since 1963. That means that the U.S. homicide rate is now at a 51-year low! Trump and Clinton's speechwriters should take note.
HumanProgress contains data from the Global Terrorism Database for a period between 1970 and 2014. The data shows that terrorism killed more people in Western Europe in the 1970s and 1980s than in more recent decades. When estimates for 2015 and 2016* are added, a clear uptick in terrorism can be observed. That said, terrorism was clearly responsible for more deaths in Western Europe during the 1970s and 1980s. As horrible as the current terrorism uptick is, Western Europe has been through worse.*Please note that the 2016 estimate does not include the most recent attacks.

Focusing on long-term trends rather than the media narrative and the pronouncements of our politicians is a far better way of assessing the true state of our security and crafting well-reasoned policy solutions.

First published in Reason.