It failed to animate voters in places like Pennsylvania and California, but crime has proven a winning strategy in New York – where the massive reach of the city’s media market means that the crime of Gotham is the crime of the state.
“All the suburbs of New York watch the 5 and 6 o’clock news on all the networks, they read the tabloids, and they see these high-profile incidents of someone being pushed in front of a subway, a shooting, a knife, and there’s kind of a fear that it could happen in their front yard,” said Democratic consultant Mike Morey, who worked on the campaign of the DCCC chairman who just lost his seat, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney.
In Zeldin’s case, it happened in his backyard: two teenagers were gunned down right outside his Long Island home. He was quick to release announcements about the incident.
“I read the paper like everyone else and I see story after story of people being stabbed, shot or pushed in front of a train, or burglaries that have increased,” Rep. Nicole Malliotakiswho won re-election in a competitive Staten Island district criticizing her combat veteran opponent’s “pro-crime agenda.”
She also enjoyed the support of the New York Post – the city’s right-wing tabloid and legendary columnist of blood and guts.
The newspaper’s cover stories maintained their typical cadence of national politics, celebrity intrigue, sensational crime and local sports through the end of October. Then, in the days leading up to and including Election Day, 15 of the Post’s 20 covers highlighted local unrest with headlines such as “Living in Fear”, “Ticking Crime Bomb”, “Pushed to the Edge” and “Targets on Our Backs.”
One depicted Hochul wearing a tinfoil hat for downplaying the issue. Another caricatured Mayor Eric Adams – a retired cop and moderate Democrat of law and order – riding a winged unicorn to illustrate his “never land” claim that the media revolved around rising crime in New York.
“The Post has always and historically covered crime in New York City,” a spokesperson said. “When the crimes are particularly newsworthy – like people pushed onto subway tracks, joggers raped, teenage girls killed in gang crossfire, a wife killed by an abusive husband when he’s released hours later beat her – we will, of course, post them on the front page.
Adams’ talking points earlier this year overlapped with Republicans as he called for reforms to state bail laws, but his message has changed as the election nears and polls have warned that Democrats could be skimmed by crime.
Indeed, major crimes are up 29% in New York City from a year ago — after rising since 2020, statistics show. Much of this year’s increase is due to increases in property crimes, such as armed robbery. The murders and shootings that dominate local media coverage have declined by about 14% each this year, though they still haven’t reached pre-pandemic levels. At the same time, Republican-led states occupy the top 10 list for murder rates.
In New York, coverage of the crime has overtaken its ascent. New York news outlets have published 58,131 crime stories so far this year – a 42% spike from the 40,665 such stories published at the same time last year, according to data from the Media Cloud tracking service. There were only 28,638 for the period in 2020.
“Crime coverage has not always been commensurate with the true scale of crime,” said Ravi Mangla, communications manager for the Liberal Working Families Party, who said he shared his own opinions without speaking on behalf of the party. “There’s no denying that we’ve seen more media coverage, relative to the number of crimes, than we were seeing, even compared to a year or two years ago.”
And New York’s media market extends into its populated suburbs, meaning voters on Long Island and the Hudson Valley see plenty of news stories from the city. Local media have long lived by the “if it bleeds, it leads” mantra, but crime has come under increased scrutiny in light of the state bail reform enacted in 2020.
Although the data doesn’t back up their claims, Republicans have blamed rising crime in New York — which mirrors national trends — on the elimination of cash bail for most nonviolent state crimes. It’s been litigated in the press for years, and bail has become a de facto campaign issue for many on the right.
“Democrats still can’t decide whether to accept this is a problem and fix it, or continue to deny this is a problem,” said senior researcher Nicole Gelinas. at the curator Manhattan Institute, who said she was not surprised. Voters in York punished Democrats at the ballot box.
This year, Republicans across the country ran ads urging Democrats to “defund the police,” bail reform and raise crime rates. But the strategy hasn’t been as effective nationally as the party had anticipated – even though Fox News (whose owner, Rupert Murdoch, also controls the New York Post) has increased coverage of the unrest in the Democratic towns ahead of Election Day.
In a Senate race in Pennsylvania, Republican Mehmet Oz slammed his opponent John Fetterman for felony, and a Trump-linked Super PAC claimed the Democrat wants to let “ruthless killers, muggers and rapists back into our lives.” streets”. Fetterman knocked down the siege by over 4 points.
California Governor Gavin Newsom – who has warned his fellow Democrats to improve messaging on crime – was toppled for crime and homelessness in polls earlier this year. But he sailed to re-election victory in the blue state nonetheless. In New York, Democrat Hochul won re-election by an unusual 6 points.
However, the issue may have only provided the Wisconsin GOP Sen with the push. Ron Johnson necessary. He was trailing in the polls until the GOP began running ads portraying his opponent Mandela Barnes as extreme on crime. Johnson is on course for a one-point victory.
In New York, voters consistently ranked crime among their top concerns in polls, unlike voters nationally.
A Quinnipiac poll found New York voters ranked crime as the most pressing issue. A Siena poll of Long Island voters found that 90% of voters rated crime as a very or somewhat serious problem, and they were twice as likely to trust Republicans to handle it better than Democrats. Meanwhile, a nationwide NBC News exit poll found that inflation and abortion beat crime as voters’ top issues.
Critics have accused the mayor of lending fervor to New York. He ran to quell crime and expressed frustration with colleagues on his left flank who often balk at his pro-law and order policy proposals.
The retired police captain, who patrolled the subway for two decades during the 1980s and 1990s, said earlier this year that he had “never witnessed a crime on this level” in New York.
After the midterms, he dismissed questions about whether his rhetoric empowered Republicans.
“It’s just the twilight zone. Come on, let’s get real here,’ he said in an unrelated briefing on Thursday. “If every poll shows New Yorkers are concerned about crime and their mayor is responding to their concern, who should be at fault? Those who ignored worry. Say, ‘Eric was talking about crime.’ Duh! New Yorkers were talking about crime.
Danielle Muoio Dunn contributed to this report.