Little Change in Public's View of the U.S. Drug Problem

by Joseph Carroll

More than 7 in 10 Americans say nation's drug problem is very serious

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The annual Gallup Poll Social Series update on Americans' attitudes toward crime finds the vast majority of Americans saying the problem of illegal drugs in the United States is very serious, but substantially fewer saying drugs are a serious problem in the area where they live. These results are consistent with what Gallup has observed in recent years. There has also been little change in the public's views about government efforts to deal with the problem -- only about one in three Americans saying it has made progress in this area.

Americans in lower-income households are more likely than those in higher-income households to view drugs as a serious problem both on the local and national level. Women express a higher level of concern about the nation's drug problem than do men, but women are also more inclined to say the nation has made progress with the problem.

The Drug Problem in the United States

The Oct. 4-7, 2007, poll asked Americans to assess the problem of drugs in the United States and also in the area where they live.

Seventy-three percent of Americans describe the nations' problem as either "extremely" (35%) or "very" (38%) serious. An additional 24% say it is "moderately" serious, and only 2% say it is "not too" or "not at all" serious. Most Americans have described the nation's drug problem as extremely or very serious since Gallup first asked this question in 2000. At that time, 83% said illegal drugs in the country were a serious issue. Since then, this percentage has been somewhat lower, ranging between 70% and the current 73%.

Americans express considerably less concern about the problem of drugs in their local communities. Just 29% say the problem of drugs in their local area is extremely (14%) or very (15%) serious. Thirty-nine percent say it is moderately serious, and 31% say it is not too or not at all serious. The percentage of Americans saying the drug problem in their area is extremely or very serious is the lowest Gallup has measured since 2000, but it is not much lower than it has been in recent years.

Gallup polling over the years finds Americans typically rating conditions in a wide variety of areas more positively on their local level than on the national level. For example, in the poll, 57% of Americans say crime in the country is a serious problem while only 15% say crime is a serious problem in their area.

The public's concern about drugs in the country and in their local areas varies significantly by household income and gender:

Americans residing in lower-income households (particularly those earning less than $30,000 per year) are much more likely than those in higher-income households (especially those earning $75,000 or more per year) to say the drug problem -- both in the country and in their local area -- is a serious problem.

Seriousness of Illegal Drugs
Results by Household Income Level
Oct. 4-7, 2007

Less than
$30,000 per
year

$30,000-
74,999 per
year

$75,000 or
more per
year

%

%

%

In the United States?

Extremely/Very serious

83

75

58

Moderately serious

14

22

40

Not too/Not at all serious

2

2

2

In the area where you live?

Extremely/Very serious

38

27

21

Moderately serious

29

43

42

Not too/Not at all serious

30

28

36

Although both men and women agree that the nation's drug problem is serious, women (80%) are more likely than men (66%) to say this. The two groups show more modest variations in regards to the seriousness of drugs in their local area.

Seriousness of Illegal Drugs
Results by Gender

Oct. 4-7, 2007

Men

Women

%

%

In the United States?

Extremely/Very serious

66

80

Moderately serious

31

18

Not too/Not at all serious

2

2

In the area where you live?

Extremely/Very serious

25

32

Moderately serious

42

37

Not too/Not at all serious

32

30

Progress Made in the War on Drugs

The poll also asked Americans if the nation has made much progress, made some progress, stood still, lost some ground, or lost much ground over the last year or two in coping with the problem of illegal drugs. The results show the public essentially divided into three equal segments: 34% saying the country has made progress, 31% saying they country has stood still, and 32% saying the country has lost ground. That has been the case in each of the last two surveys.

Americans' optimism has clearly declined compared to what it was at the turn of the century, when nearly half of Americans thought the nation was making progress against illegal drugs. Americans were most pessimistic about the efficacy of anti-drug efforts in the 1976 and 1996 surveys.

Now, how much progress do you feel the nation has made
over the last year or two in coping with the problem of illegal
drugs -- Has it made much progress, made some
progress, stood still, lost some ground, or lost much ground?


Made
progress


Stood
still


Lost
ground

Net
progress
made

%

%

%

2007 Oct 4-7

34

31

32

+2

2005 Oct 13-16

33

30

36

-3

2003 Oct 6-8

38

32

28

+10

2000 Aug 29-Sep 5

47

23

29

+18

1999 Sep 23-26

46

27

26

+20

1996 Nov 21-24

31

22

46

-15

1995 Sep 14-17

38

30

30

+8

1976 Jun

27

29

40

-13

1974 Apr

40

21

35

+5

1972 May

35

20

41

-6

NOTE: Net progress made is calculated by subtracting the percentage who say the country has lost ground from the percentage saying it has made progress.

There are also differences by household income levels about the progress made dealing with the issue of illegal drugs in the last couple of years.

Those earning less than $30,000 per year are more likely than those earning $75,000 or more to say the country has made progress dealing with the problem of illegal drugs, but they are also more likely to say the country has lost ground. A plurality of adults earning $75,000 or more per year (41%) say the country has neither made progress nor lost ground, but rather has stood still. (Those earning between $30,000 and $75,000 per year are roughly equally divided across the three response categories).

Progress Made With Illegal Drugs
Results by Household Income Level
Oct. 4-7, 2007

Less than
$30,000 per
year

$30,000-
74,999 per
year

$75,000 or
more per
year

%

%

%

Made progress

44

31

30

Stood still

20

30

41

Lost ground

33

35

26

Men are much more pessimistic than women about the progress the nation has made in its effort to combat illegal drugs. Among men, the plurality (37%) say the country has lost ground in the battle against illegal drugs in the last couple of years, while 33% say it has stood still, and 27% say it has made progress. The results are essentially the opposite among women -- 40% say the country has made progress, 29% say it has stood still, and 28% say it has lost ground.

Progress Made With Illegal Drugs
Results by Gender

Oct. 4-7, 2007

Men

Women

%

%

Made progress

27

40

Stood still

33

29

Lost ground

37

28

Net progress made

-10

+12

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,010 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Oct. 4-7, 2007. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

18. Overall, how would you describe the problem of drugs [ROTATED: in the United States/in the area where you live] -- is it extremely serious, very serious, moderately serious, not too serious, or not serious at all?

A. In the United States


Extremely
serious


Very
serious


Mod-
erately
serious


Not
too
serious

Not
serious
at all


No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Oct 4-7

35

38

24

1

1

1

2005 Oct 13-16

37

33

23

5

1

1

2003 Oct 6-8

31

40

24

3

1

1

2000 Aug 29-Sep 5

43

40

15

1

1

*

* = Less than 0.5%

B. In the area where you live


Extremely serious


Very
serious


Mod-
erately
serious


Not too serious

Not serious
at all


No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Oct 4-7

14

15

39

21

10

2

2005 Oct 13-16

14

19

35

23

8

1

2003 Oct 6-8

13

17

36

22

11

1

2000 Aug 29-Sep 5

13

21

39

19

6

2

19. Now, how much progress do you feel the nation has made over the last year or two in coping with the problem of illegal drugs -- Has it made much progress, made some progress, stood still, lost some ground, or lost much ground?

Made
much
prog-
ress

Made
some
prog-
ress

Stood
still

Lost
some
ground

Lost
much
ground

No
opinion

Total
made
prog-
ress

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Oct 4-7

3

31

31

19

13

3

34

2005 Oct 13-16

2

31

30

23

13

1

33

2003 Oct 6-8

3

35

32

17

11

2

38

2000 Aug 29-
Sep 5

6

41

23

17

12

1

47

1999 Sep 23-26

4

42

27

14

12

1

46

1996 Nov 21-24

3

28

22

24

22

1

31

1995 Sep 14-17

2

36

30

19

11

2

38

1976 Jun

2

25

29

25

15

4

27

1974 Apr

4

36

21

19

16

5

40

1972 May

3

32

20

21

20

5

35

Get Articles in Related Topics:


Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/102061/Little-Change-Publics-View-US-Drug-Problem.aspx
Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030