Politics

Most Americans Concerned About Mexico's Drug Violence

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Fifty-one percent are very concerned

PRINCETON, NJ -- A new Gallup Poll finds 79% of Americans saying they are concerned about "drug violence in Mexico," including 51% who are "very concerned."

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These results are based on an April 1-2 Gallup Poll that asked Americans to indicate how concerned they are with Mexican drug violence, as well as a number of other potential international threats to the United States. Results for the full list of items will be reported on Gallup.com Monday.

Violence from Mexican drug cartels is an emerging issue. Already, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and Attorney General Eric Holder have met with Mexican officials to discuss the issue. Earlier, the U.S. government issued a travel warning for U.S. citizens living or vacationing in Mexico. There are concerns that the violence is spilling across the border into the United States.

That may explain why residents of the South and West -- which include the states located closest to Mexico -- express greater concern about the issue than Eastern and Midwestern residents.

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Additionally, concern varies rather dramatically by age, with older Americans much more worried than younger Americans. This pattern is evident in regard to most other international issues tested in the survey, but is especially pronounced with regard to Mexican drug violence.

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At this point, there are not meaningful party differences -- 50% of Democrats say they are very concerned about the issue, compared with 47% of independents and 56% of Republicans. But the issue could take on partisan overtones in the future as the government attempts to design policies to address the issue.

Implications

Relative to other issues, Mexican drug violence has not received a great deal of attention in the national news media -- economic issues have generally dwarfed any international concerns thus far in Barack Obama's presidency. But even with the rather limited attention it has received, Americans are aware enough about the issue to express concern about it. The fact that it is occurring in a neighboring country and has the potential to spill over into the United States (and is reportedly already doing so in cities like Phoenix) may help explain the relatively high level of concern.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 988 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted April 1-2, 2009, as part of Gallup Poll Daily tracking. 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.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

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.

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