Newsbrief: Latest Gallup Poll Finds Public Believes Drugs a Serious Problem But Not the Most Serious 10/24/03

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A Gallup Poll released Tuesday finds that 71% of Americans believe the US has a "serious" or "very serious" drug problem, a high figure, but one 12 points below the 83% who said so in 2000. Similarly, only 2% of respondents identified drugs as the most serious issue facing the nation, down from 5% in 2000. Those figures are in stark contrast to the late 1980s, when President Bush the Elder was waving bags of crack around on national television and Gallup found majorities saying that drugs were the worst problem facing the nation.

Interestingly, the October 6-8 poll found that while a majority believes drugs are a serious national problem, less than half who said so believe drugs are a serious problem in their own communities. "It is common," Gallup noted, "for Americans to perceive conditions in their local communities much more positively than they view conditions in the United States, more generally."

Nearly a quarter (24%) of respondents reported that drug abuse had caused problems in their families, continuing a slight upward trend evident since 1995, when that figure was 19%. By contrast, 31% reported that alcohol consumption had caused family problems.

As for "progress in coping with the problem of illegal drugs," however respondents defined it, the nation appears closely divided. Some 38% said progress was made, 32% said the nation stood still, and 28% felt that the country had lost ground. This year's figures reflect no substantive change in attitudes on "progress," with the "made progress" figure roughly the same as reported in 1972 (35%) or 1995 (38%), although lower than the all-time high of 47% reported three years ago.

Visit http://www.gallup.com/poll/releases/pr031020.asp to read the complete findings online.

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