- Perceived gang activity climbed five percentage points to 40% in 2014
- South Mexico had lowest perception of gangs, drugs and theft
- Confidence in local police was highest in the South
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Four in 10 Mexicans in 2014 report gangs are present in the areas where the live. Although this is still lower than the relatively high levels Mexicans reported in the early years of their country's drug war, it is notable because it is up slightly for the first time in several years.
In July and August, Gallup polled Mexicans on their perceptions of gang activity, drug trafficking and crime in their areas. However, it's important to note that this poll was taken a month before 43 university students were abducted in the southern state of Guerrero in September. The Mexican government is reporting that the students were taken by police and handed off to drug traffickers who murdered them. The high-profile kidnapping has resulted in nationwide protests calling for justice for the students.
The incident upset the Southern region's previous reputation as a relative safe haven in Mexico's drug war. While one in five Mexicans in the Southern region (21%) said they have gangs in their areas, the figures were much larger in the North (37%) and Central (53%) regions. Meanwhile, residents in the North (34%) and Central (33%) regions were more than three times more likely to be aware of drug trafficking in their areas than those in the South (10%).
The kidnapping could also jeopardize southern Mexicans' confidence in government and law enforcement. Already, majorities in each of the three regions said there was government corruption in the areas where they lived.
While all three regions held about equally low confidence in the national government, a majority of southern residents (57%) said they were confident in local law enforcement -- much higher than in the North (38%) and Central (43%) regions.
These figures present a challenge to President Enrique Peña Nieto, who has not seen an improvement in perceived gang presence and drug trafficking since his election to office in December 2012. In the wake of the kidnappings, some protesters have directed their anger toward the president, with one group of protesters setting fire to a ceremonial palace earlier this month. How the federal government in Mexico handles the situation as details of the kidnapping are uncovered could affect regional perceptions going forward.
Mexico's long struggle with gangs and drug trafficking has endangered residents, led to tens of thousands of casualties and jeopardized the nation's economy. But while these struggles were previously thought to primarily affect the Northern and Central regions of Mexico, the recent tragedy in the South may have come as more of a shock to Mexicans.
Southern Mexico, which is home to popular tourist destinations like Cancun and Acapulco, could be threatened by fallout from the kidnappings in a drastic way not previously seen in the region. This puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the federal government as well as various levels of law enforcement to oversee this case to justice in the country's continued battle with gang violence.
With blame for this high-profile kidnapping falling on a combination of the local government, police and a gang, much is at stake in Mexicans' views of their government, as well as their own personal safety.
Results are based on face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,017 adults in Mexico, aged 15 and older, conducted in 2014. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error ranged from ±3.7 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. 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.
For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.
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