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Below is a complimentary Demography Unplugged research note written by Hedgeye Demography analyst Neil Howe. Click here to learn more and subscribe.

Cities Are "Re-Funding" the Police - AdobeStock 219713084

Amid rising levels of violent crime, police departments around the country are getting their funding back. This comes as surveys show a sharp rise in demand for increased police spending. (The New York Times)

NH: Last year, major cities like Los Angeles, New York City, Dallas, Chicago, and Austin cut police funding. Now they’re getting much of that money back--and in some cases, a lot more than they had before.

With violent crime surging nationally (see “FBI Releases Official 2020 Crime Report”) and officers resigning in droves (see “Police Resignations Surge as Crime Becomes Hot New Campaign Issue”), the energy that powered the “defund” movement has shifted into reverse gear.

According to a recent Pew poll, 47% of Americans say that spending on policing in their area should be increased, up from 31% in June 2020. That includes 21% who say it should be increased “a lot,” up from 11%. The share who support reducing police spending is down 10 percentage points (pp), from 25% to 15%.

Cities Are "Re-Funding" the Police - AdobeStock 219713084

Support for reduced spending has fallen the most among black adults (-19 pp) and Democrats (-16 pp). These groups are still the most likely to support reduced spending, but by much smaller margins than before.

This attitude was very much evident at the voting booth last week. Candidates who emphasized more or reformed policing, including NYC’s Eric Adams and Seattle’s Bruce Harrell, sailed to victory.

Meanwhile, voters in Minneapolis rejected a proposal that would have replaced the police department with a "department of public safety." They also reelected Mayor Jacob Frey, who favors reform over defunding.

This said, not all pro-policing measures were successful. Voters in Austin, for instance, soundly rejected a ballot measure to hire hundreds of new police officers--even though earlier this year the city council reversed budget cuts made in 2020 and proceeded to raise the police department’s budget to record levels with nary a protest.

The big takeaway? We predicted earlier this summer that, so long as crime keeps rising, attitudes about policing will shift towards wanting more instead of less. Calls to reform the police are resonating, but defunding has become a third rail that all but the most liberal Democrats won’t touch.

The fact that black and Hispanic Democrats are more supportive than white Democrats of increasing police funding, as shown in Pew’s recent poll, points to the disconnect between what many of its most progressive voices are saying and the realities on the ground. 

Cities Are "Re-Funding" the Police - Nov12 1

A new wave of left-wing political analysts, such as David Shor, are taking progressives to task for ignoring public opinion about unpopular policy ideas to their detriment.

He has argued that defunding was one of the key issues that drove down support for Biden among Hispanic voters in 2020.

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Neil Howe is a renowned authority on generations and social change in America. An acclaimed bestselling author and speaker, he is the nation's leading thinker on today's generations—who they are, what motivates them, and how they will shape America's future.

A historian, economist, and demographer, Howe is also a recognized authority on global aging, long-term fiscal policy, and migration. He is a senior associate to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C., where he helps direct the CSIS Global Aging Initiative.

Howe has written over a dozen books on generations, demographic change, and fiscal policy, many of them with William Strauss. Howe and Strauss' first book, Generations is a history of America told as a sequence of generational biographies. Vice President Al Gore called it "the most stimulating book on American history that I have ever read" and sent a copy to every member of Congress. Newt Gingrich called it "an intellectual tour de force." Of their book, The Fourth Turning, The Boston Globe wrote, "If Howe and Strauss are right, they will take their place among the great American prophets."

Howe and Strauss originally coined the term "Millennial Generation" in 1991, and wrote the pioneering book on this generation, Millennials Rising. His work has been featured frequently in the media, including USA Today, CNN, the New York Times, and CBS' 60 Minutes.

Previously, with Peter G. Peterson, Howe co-authored On Borrowed Time, a pioneering call for budgetary reform and The Graying of the Great Powers with Richard Jackson.

Howe received his B.A. at U.C. Berkeley and later earned graduate degrees in economics and history from Yale University.