- 41% say progress has been made on the drug problem, up from 32% in 2017
- 73% of Americans say illegal drugs are a serious issue in the U.S.
- 33% say illegal drugs are a serious issue in their local area
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In the midst of the continuing opioid crisis, Americans have become increasingly likely since 2017 to say the U.S. has made progress in addressing the problem of illegal drugs more broadly. Currently, 41% of Americans believe "much" or "some" progress has been made "over the last year or two," up modestly from 32% in 2017. Three in 10 Americans, 30%, say the country has lost "some" or "much" ground in the struggle, down from 37% two years ago.
These latest data come from Gallup's annual Crime survey, conducted Oct. 1-13 this year. The findings come as opioid overdoses are responsible for more than 130 lives lost in the U.S. each day. Despite the continued cost in lives, deaths attributable to drug overdoses overall are estimated to have declined in 2018.
The increase in optimism over addressing the problem of illegal drugs has come primarily from Republicans. The percentage of Republicans saying there has been "much" or "some" progress in addressing illegal drugs has risen to 58%, up from 41% in 2017.
During the same period, the percentage of Democrats saying the same rose a modest four percentage points, from 28% in 2017 to 32% currently. A similar pattern occurred among political independents, with 36% now saying progress has been made on the issue, up from 32% in 2017.
Republicans are likely giving President Donald Trump credit for the efforts his administration has made to combat the opioid issue in the U.S., while Democrats and independents are not doing so. It is unclear to what extent Republicans, or Americans more generally, are aware of the decline in opioid deaths between 2017 and 2018.
Little Change Seen in Seriousness of Illegal Drug Problem
Americans' views on the seriousness of the illegal drug problem, both in the U.S. as a whole and in their local areas, are little changed for 2019. When asked about the problem in the U.S., 73% of Americans say it is "extremely" or "very serious," similar to what Gallup measured in the previous two years. Americans are more optimistic about their local areas, with 33% saying illegal drugs are an extremely or very serious problem where they live, roughly the same as the 31% who voiced this opinion in 2018.
Since Gallup first asked Americans their views about the seriousness of the illegal drug problem in the U.S. and in their local area, the public has been consistently more optimistic about their local areas compared with the country as a whole. This aligns with patterns of opinion on other issues, whereby Americans tend to be more optimistic about conditions in their local areas than in the country. Gallup has identified similar patterns in regard to crime, education and healthcare, among other issues.
Differing Patterns on the Seriousness of the Problem National and Locally
The poll finds modest differences among various demographic groups in concern about the illegal drug problem in the U.S. as a whole, but not locally.
|Gallup, Oct. 1-13, 2019|
As with many other issues, there is a partisan gap in perceptions of the seriousness of the illegal drug problem on a national level. Republicans are 10 points more likely than Democrats to say the issue is an extremely or very serious problem in the U.S. But there is little difference between the two groups' views on the issue at the local level.
The opioid crisis peaked in 2017, with 17,000 Americans having died that year from overdoses of prescription opioids. Deaths from overdoses in general have reportedly declined, from 72,000 in 2017 to an estimated 68,500 in 2018, potentially contributing to views that progress has been made.
At the same time that almost three-quarters of Americans report illegal drugs to be a serious problem in the U.S., they continue to support the legalization of marijuana at near-record levels, suggesting the public does not equate marijuana with the harder substances wreaking havoc on communities around the country.
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