FIRST ON FOX: A report from the Heritage Foundation shows that homicide rates have been higher in Democrat-run "blue counties" than they have been in "red counties" since 2002 – contradicting a popular talking point recited by prominent liberals like California Gov. Gavin Newsom and billionaire George Soros.
Newsom has publicly stated that "8 of the top 10 murder states are red" while liberal mega-donor Soros wrote in the Wall Street Journal last year that "violent crime in recent years has generally been increasing more quickly in jurisdictions without reform-minded prosecutors" and "murder rates have been rising fastest in some Republican states led by tough-on-crime politicians."
The problem, according to Heritage Foundation’s Kevin Dayaratna, who authored the report along with former research assistant Alexander Gage, is that studies cited by Democrats to make that argument – including a recent study from Third Way titled "The Two-Decade Red State Murder Problem" – use a "flawed" methodology because crime is a local issue and, therefore, crime analysis must be undertaken at the local level.
"It is true that red states have higher homicide rates than blue states, but the problem with this is that crime is a hyper-localized phenomenon," Dayaratna told Fox News Digital. "It doesn't make sense to talk about at the state level. It makes sense to talk about at the local level because that's where the prosecutions occur. The local level crime is handled at the local level by local police, so when you look at this question on a local basis, namely the county level, you'll see that the trend is reversed."
"If you look at the analysis on a state-by-state level, it's 34% higher in red states and blue states, according to the most recent data we analyzed, but then when you look at it as a county-by-county level, it is 60% higher in blue counties than red counties."
The study says that "drawing conclusions from state-level homicide data in such a manner is flawed, as each state consists of a combination of federal, state, county, and local law enforcement agencies, as well as prosecutors with different approaches to law enforcement often based on highly divergent political beliefs."
"Violations of state law are prosecuted largely at the county or city level and, thus, amalgamating data across such units neglects important variation in these different approaches," the study continues.
"Looking at homicide rates by county, states show skewed distributions with many counties having little or no homicides, and a handful of counties with excessively high homicide rates. Thus, state homicide rates can be heavily influenced by a few counties. When those counties have different politics from the rest of the state, it can flip the conclusion about the association between political identifications and homicides."
Dayaratna also told Fox News Digital that Third Way’s conclusion that homicide rates are higher in red states is flawed because it did not update the changes in red states and blue states, in terms of how they shifted in presidential elections over the past 20 years, when compiling the data.
"Third Way held ‘red’ states and ‘blue’ states constant in terms of how they voted in the 2020 presidential election. This approach is fundamentally flawed because electoral sentiment changed across the time period used for the study," the report states.
"For example, although President Biden won Arizona in 2020, the previous Democrat who won the state was Bill Clinton in 1996. Similarly, Donald Trump won Florida in both 2016 and 2020, despite the fact that Barack Obama had won the state in 2008 and 2012."
Dayaratna said that between 2002 and 2008, there was an 88% higher rate of homicide in blue counties than red counties and between 2014 and 2022 there was a 62% increase.
"It is undoubtable that this blue county murder problem has been persisting for quite some time," Dayaratna told Fox News Digital. "And it is quite disingenuous for the Third Way to just present the data as they did. We analyze it from a variety of perspectives at the Heritage Foundation. And we wanted to make sure we put out the proper story."
Last year, Dayaratna partnered with fellow Heritage scholars Cully Stimson and Zack Smith and released a study showing that of the 30 American cities with the highest murder rates, 27 have Democratic mayors, and at least 14 Soros-backed prosecutors.
A spokesperson for Third Way told Fox News Digital that "data is missing or suppressed for many suburban and rural counties, making a complete county-level analysis impossible. But to test a prevalent narrative, we removed the county containing the largest city from only the red states and we found that even after removing the murders from the biggest cities in red states, red state murder rates were still significantly higher than in blue states, which were given no similar advantage."
In response to not updating the electoral map, the spokesperson said they "chose an approach that categorized states consistently across all 21 years" and that "including electoral changes would only increase red state murder rates."
A spokesperson for Newsom's office told Fox News Digital that Newsom has cited more localized crime studies in the past and pointed to a specific interview where he did so in September.