One in three Midwesterners say police succeed at keeping them safe; same proportion believe they can protect themselves

New Avvo study explores beliefs surrounding personal safety, gun ownership, and the justice system in the Midwest

Seattle, Wash — Oct. 27, 2015The latest Avvo, Inc. consumer perception study finds that as many Midwesterners believe they could protect themselves when in danger (34%) as those who believe the police succeed in keeping them safe (31%). But don’t mistake this for a lack of respect for police. Avvo asked Midwesterners to rate how much they respect police officers in comparison to a host of other professionals – 75% said they respect police officers; only doctors, teachers and pilots were respected more highly in the Midwest.

“It’s not necessarily that people think poorly of the police,” said Nika Kabiri, JD, PhD, law and society analyst at Avvo. “Perpetrators of violence usually make sure the police aren’t around before they commit a crime. Most people realize that even the most effective police force isn’t able to be everywhere at all times to protect them.”

PS_Midwest_Respect for professions

When asked whether they thought the police are effective at keeping them safe, 31% of Midwesterners said “yes”. Moreover, less than a fifth of Midwesterners (17%) say they have very little or no trust in the police, while 15% say they trust the police completely. Also, only 10% of Midwesterners say they would not go to the police if someone harmed them or their family.

Among Midwesterners, 40% of Missouri residents say they think the police are effective at keeping them safe. Indiana residents, however, are significantly less likely to agree: only 27% say the police are effective at safety. States like Illinois and Ohio fall somewhere in between: 32% in Illinois and 31% in Ohio agree that the police can keep them safe.

When asked whether they could effectively protect themselves with a gun if in danger, 34% of Midwesterners said they definitely could while 24% disagreed. In Indiana, where only one in four people think the police can keep them safe, almost half (48%) say they are confident that if they were in danger, and they had a gun, they could protect themselves. Compare this to Illinois, where only 27% of residents feel the same. Thirty-eight percent of Missourians, 35% of Ohio residents, and 35% of Michigan residents agree.


Gun ownership is a safety decision for most, though most wouldn’t say more gun owners creates a safer society.

Self-protection and family security is a concern for Midwesterners. In fact, protecting oneself or family is the number one reason for purchasing a firearm in Midwestern states. Thirty-two percent (32%) of Midwestern gun owners say they purchased their gun for self-protection. Protecting one’s family was the top purchase reason for 30% of Midwestern gun owners (see chart). Twenty-nine percent of Midwesterners report owning a firearm.

However, though gun ownership is largely driven by the need to protect oneself and family, only 15% of Midwesterners – and 30% of Midwestern gun owners – agree that if more people owned guns we’d all be safer. (Only 9% of gun owners believe that more gun ownership means more safety.) Only 7% of Illinois residents say that more gun ownership would make us all safer. Nineteen percent in Ohio, 17% in Indiana, 16% in Michigan, and 15% in Missouri agree.

Illinois residents also seem more likely than Midwesterners as a whole to support gun control. Forty percent in Illinois believe owning a handgun should be legal, which is lower than the 55% across the Midwestern region who agree; 69% in Missouri and in Indiana, 65% in Ohio, and 61% in Michigan support the legalization of handguns.

“It’s an interesting dynamic that while individuals buy guns to protect themselves and their families in the Midwest, they don’t believe that more gun owners create a safer society,” Kabiri said. “This seems to reflect a prisoner’s dilemma. Most Midwesterners believe that if we could all agree to give up our guns then we’d all be safer. But in the absence of this type of wide-scale cooperation, especially on the part of the ‘bad guys,’ not having a gun means not being on a level playing field. For many, it means being a sitting duck.”

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About this study

Avvo conducts periodic studies of issues and topics at the intersection of the law and society to better understand the dynamics facing individuals engaging with the legal system.

These are findings from an Avvo poll conducted in collaboration with Research Now in late August and early September 2015. A sample of 2,600 U.S. adults (18 and over) were surveyed. The precision of Research Now online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points for all respondents. The data were weighted to the U.S. current population data by gender, age, and region based on Census data.

About Avvo, Inc.

Avvo is the leading online legal marketplace connecting consumers and lawyers. Avvo offers on-demand, affordable legal advice through Avvo Advisor®, which delivers a highly reviewed lawyer for 15 minutes over the phone – anytime, anywhere – available online or via a free app for iOS devices. In Avvo’s Q&A forum, consumers can get their legal questions answered for free by more than 230,000 participating lawyers or search more than 7.5 million previously asked questions and attorney provided answers. Avvo’s lawyer directory provides Avvo-rated profiles, client reviews, and peer endorsements for 97% of all lawyers in the U.S., so consumers can find the lawyer who’s right for them.  Avvo also helps lawyers grow their businesses with marketing tools and services including the Avvo JD App and Avvo Ignite, a cloud-based marketing platform designed specifically for attorneys.  Avvo, Avvo Advisor, Avvo JD App, and Avvo Ignite are trademarks or registered trademarks of Avvo, Inc.  Avvo was founded in 2006 and is based in Seattle, Wash.