Mar 14, 2023 - News

Philly seniors want new mayor to solve crime

Illustration of Philadelphia city hall over a divided red and blue background with elements of ballots.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Older Philadelphians are sending a clear signal to mayoral candidates: Make the city safer.

Driving the news: A new AARP survey of registered voters aged 50 and older found public safety was among the top issues in the race.

  • 79% said they were “much more likely” to vote for a candidate that ensures every neighborhood is safe for all residents, per the survey, which was conducted in February.
  • And nearly 52% of respondents said they've considered moving out of their neighborhoods in the past year, with public safety the main reason.

Why it matters: Older residents are a big voting bloc, even in the May primary, which traditionally sees low voter turnout. That means they could have a major influence in this year's race, where a dozen Democratic mayoral candidates with no clear frontrunner are vying for their party’s ticket.

Context: Gun violence in the city reached historic highs in 2021, but homicides and the number of non-fatal shooting victims have fallen since then.

Zoom in: The AARP survey found that older residents have considered leaving their neighborhoods for reasons besides crime, including high property taxes and wanting to live in an area with a lower cost of living.

By the numbers: 53% said they disapproved of Mayor Jim Kenney.

  • Nearly 46% were dissatisfied with City Council.

Between the lines: The survey had a sample size of 826 adults over 50 years old, most of whom said they were “very likely” to vote (80%).

  • The survey had a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points.

What they’re saying: While several candidates have issued public safety plans, they're lacking a clear “plan of action” to take on the issue, Bill Johnston-Walsh, Pennsylvania state director for AARP, tells Axios.

  • “It’s a wake-up call,” he says of the survey. “Older Philadelphians are watching [candidates] and listening to what they’re saying.”

Mustafa Rashed, CEO of lobbying and communications firm Bellevue Strategies, tells Axios it was no surprise that public safety is top of mind.

  • “The candidate that can best demonstrate a clear vision on how to address the public safety issue will be well positioned to win the nomination,” he said.

What's next: Ballot positioning will be determined on Wednesday, when candidates draw numbers from an old Horn & Hardart coffee can at City Hall.


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