Over the past two decades, considerable political rhetoric has focused on the need to get tough on crime. Justification for this hard-line approach has been the public's apparent concern about rising crime rates and its increasing dissatisfaction with criminal sentencing. In this paper, we consider characteristics both of the measurement of public opinion and of the influences upon public opinion that may contribute to the depiction of a fearful, punitive community. In particular, we identify sources of bias in the methods and contexts of opinion-polling that promote a distorted representation of the discrepancy between community expectations of sentencing and the practices of the judiciary. We argue that the practices of pollsters, politicians, and media combine to create a self-sustaining obstacle to considered community discussion of crime and criminal sentencing.