- 71% say drug problem in U.S. is serious, up from 65% last year
- 29% say drugs are a serious problem in their local area
- Public divided over whether progress has been made in fighting drug problem
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Seventy-one percent of Americans describe the problem of illegal drugs in the U.S. as "extremely" or "very" serious, an increase from 65% last year. While this is a meaningful change since 2016 overall, the percentage who say the problem is "extremely serious" (32%) has held relatively steady over the past 14 years.
The latest results are based on Gallup's annual Crime poll, conducted Oct. 5-11 as an increase in the abuse of synthetic opioids has contributed to making the current drug crisis the deadliest in U.S. history. Last year, about 64,000 people in the U.S. died as a result of drug overdoses, up from 52,404 in 2015, making drug overdoses the leading killer of Americans under the age of 50.
Many candidates addressed the opioid crisis during the presidential primaries in 2016, including Donald Trump, who used the issue as one justification for building a wall along the Mexico border to stop the influx of drugs. The public's view of the drug problem in the U.S. became politicized during last year's presidential campaign, when 81% of Republicans and 58% of Democrats described the drug problem as extremely or very serious in October.
Political polarization has reached high levels across a wide range of issues in recent years. The 2016 reading on this measure may well have been another example of that partisan divide, or it may have been that Trump spent more time talking about the issue than Hillary Clinton did, resulting in greater focus on it among Republicans. In previous years, Democrats' and Republicans' views were more aligned. This year, parity returned, with 71% of Republicans and 72% of Democrats agreeing that illegal drugs in the U.S. are a serious problem.
With the notable exception of Republicans, most other major subgroups of Americans are more likely than they were a year ago to say the nation's drug problem is serious. The largest increases on this measure occurred among 18- to 29-year-olds, nonwhites and Democrats.
|18 to 29 years||46||61|
|30 to 49 years||63||69|
|50 to 64 years||73||73|
|Annual household income|
|Less than $30,000||67||74|
|$30,000 to $74,999||66||75|
|Place of residence|
|GALLUP CRIME POLLS|
Far Fewer Say Drug Problem in Their Area Is Serious
When asked if illegal drugs are an extremely or very serious problem in the area where they live, 29% of U.S. adults say they are, little changed from past readings in Gallup's 17-year trend. This is consistent with a general trend Gallup has found in which Americans tend to rate their personal situation better than the country's.
Americans with incomes under $30,000 (35%) and those living in towns or rural areas (38%) are most likely to describe the drug problem in their area as "extremely" or "very serious."