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For First Time, Majority Believes U.S. Is Losing Ground On Illegal Drugs

Americans are more negative about U.S. progress in dealing with illegal drugs than at any point in Gallup’s trend dating back to 1972. For the first time, a majority of U.S. adults, 52%, say the U.S. has lost ground in coping with the illegal drug problem, while a record-low 24% say it has made progress. Another 23% believe it has stood still, Gallup reports. Drug overdose deaths in the U.S. have risen sharply, with much of the increase due to synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Overdoses linked to other types of drugs, including cocaine and methamphetamines, have grown since 2019. Gallup has updated its survey on progress in addressing illegal drugs periodically since the mid-1990s, after initial measurements in the 1970s showed mixed views.


The latest results, from Gallup’s Oct. 2-23 Crime survey, mark a sharp reversal from 2019. At that time, more Americans were optimistic progress was being made (41%) than believed the U.S. was losing ground (30%) in the effort. The public was most optimistic about the nation’s coping with illegal drugs in 1999 and 2000, when an average of 47% believed the U.S. was making progress. Republicans are extremely negative about U.S. progress, with 12% believing the U.S. is making progress and 75% losing ground. Independents are also pessimistic, with 22% believing progress is being made and 52% thinking the situation is getting worse. More Democrats think the situation is improving (40%) than worsening (27%). Party differences underscore the importance of the match between a person’s partisanship and the incumbent president's party in evaluating the drug situation. Currently, 74% of U.S. adults describe the nation's drug problem as either extremely or very serious, up from 64% the last time the question was asked in 2021 and similar to the 2019 reading of 73%. The record high of 83% was measured in 2000, the first year the question was asked.

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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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