Sixty-five percent of Americans say that drug problems in the U.S. are “extremely” or “very serious,” according to a Gallup poll released Friday.
That’s the lowest level of concern the firm has found since it first asked the question 16 years ago, and it comes at a time when the county is experiencing what many experts have described as an “epidemic” of opioid overdose deaths.
In 2000, 83 percent of Americans said the drug problem was “extremely” or “very serious.”
What explains the drop in concern? Gallup’s Jeffrey M. Jones writes that it may “reflect less-prominent federal anti-drug efforts in recent years than in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. In fact, more recently, much of the news about drug policy has focused on state-level efforts to decriminalize marijuana.”
Earlier this month, Gallup found that 60 percent of Americans favor legalizing marijuana, the highest level of support for ending prohibition in the firm’s 47 years of asking the question.
Respondents in the new survey are even less concerned about drug issues in their own communities than in the country as a whole, with just 32 percent saying it’s an “extremely” or “very serious” problem “in the area where you live.”
Gallup attributes the drop in concern about drug problems nationally to younger adults, “who have never known a time when drugs were among the most prominent issues on the national landscape,” such as during the Reagan administration’s “Just Say No” campaign. “They have also come of age at a time when Americans, particularly those in their age cohort, support legalizing marijuana.”
While presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have to some extent focused on drug policy during the course of the campaign, “it has not received nearly as much attention as other issues such as immigration and trade, or character concerns about the candidates,” Gallup says.
The new poll is based on telephone interviews conducted with a random sample of 1,017 U.S. adults between October 5 and 9. The margin of error is ±4 percentage points.
Photo Courtesy of Allie Beckett.