Rooting for the Killer: Some True Crime Consumers Want to See the Villain Succeed, According to New Survey

Some true crime consumers find themselves supporting the villain, a new survey shows. About 28 percent of true crime fans, who enjoy the genre through television, movies, books or podcasts, have found themselves rooting for the killer in specific instances, according to Super Summary.

The idea that some true crime fans take the perpetrator's side may not be entirely shocking, as online conversations have indicated. In August, a heated debate over whether Ted Bundy or Charles Manson was the better villain surfaced on Twitter. But online observers expressed disgust at the discussion, saying that neither criminal deserves respect or admiration.

Still, having a favorite killer isn't abnormal, according to Super Summary's survey. Forty-seven percent of the 1,000 adults polled claimed they had a "favorite criminal," while only 40 percent had a "favorite member of law enforcement."

Ted Bundy
Theodore Bundy watches during the third day of jury selection at his 1980 trial in Orlando, Florida, for the murder of 12-year-old Kimberly Leach. Getty/Bettmann

As for the reasons why, the survey gave a list of choice words to describe someone's fascination with a killer. The top five words that explained this odd allure were "curiosity" (the most-chosen word, picked by 77 percent of those surveyed), followed by "disgust," "disbelief," "fascination" and "anger."

The least chosen word was "attraction," with an 11 percent response. So one in 10 of those surveyed found themselves attracted to a specific villain.

In the past year, opinion writers and national news outlets have questioned the true crime genre's worth. The nonfiction stories typically dive deep into horrendous murders, probing unanswered questions and forensic evidence. Some have questioned how the dark content is alluring to consumers and if it could have a negative effect on a person's thinking. In April, the BBC published an article that asked if the fascination is a problem.

Others argue the true crime genre is disrespectful to the victim, whose story is reduced to forensic facts and can sometimes serve as a prop in the killer's narrative. Forty-one percent of true crime fans agreed and said the genre does "exploit victims," while 66 percent said it sometimes "glorifies criminals." Others showed concern for the well-being of the genre's followers. Sixty-three percent said "coverage of heinous acts could incentivize criminals."

Shows like Making a Murder challenge public perceptions of a decade-old case, while true crime podcasts like My Favorite Murder take a comedic approach that aims to teach listeners how to stay safe in similar, potentially dangerous situations. Still, the question remains: Why do some consumers feel so drawn to the genre?

Statistically, women are more inclined to follow true crime than men. This is apparent from women-targeted channels like Oxygen, which streams exclusive true crime content around the clock. Both women and men, however, find the true crime genre "fascinating," as 73 percent said in the survey. Ninety-one percent of those polled said they like being "fascinated by unpleasant things."

Super Summary, which provides study guides for fiction and nonfiction titles, used the Amazon Mechanical Turk service to survey the 1,000 people. The survey had a margin of error of 3 percent.