Oct 262013

The Pew Research Global Attitudes Project (released 24 October 2013) provides results of face to face interviews with a national sample of 1,000 adult Mexicans. The report revealed opinions concerning a wide variety of issues including the country’s direction, most important concerns, law and order, drug war, national institutions and attitudes toward the USA. Mexicans are generally dissatisfied with their country. In March 2013, 69% of Mexicans said they were dissatisfied, up from 63% in 2012, but down from 79% in 2010. The survey suggests that crime is a major cause for dissatisfaction.

The biggest concern identified in the survey is crime which 81% said was a very big problem, up from 73% in 2012. Several other crime-related issues topped the very big problem list: cartel-related violence (71%), illegal drugs (70%), human rights violations by the military and police (70%) and corrupt political leaders (69%). The concern for crime causes real fear. The survey noted that 63% say they are afraid to walk alone at night within one kilometer of their home, up 7% from 2012 and 13% from 2007. Women were only slightly more concerned about their safety than men (65% versus 60%). Those in urban areas were significantly more worried about safety than those in rural areas (70% versus 43%). On the other hand, the fact that over four in ten in rural areas were worried is both surprising and startling.

Unfortunately, we do not have a complete regional breakdown of the survey respondents. We speculate that crime is perceived as a bigger problem in high crime areas such as the north. Attitudes toward bribery appear to support this view. While 32% said they had to pay a bribe to a government official in the past year; the percentages ranged from 51% in the north to 18% in the Mexico City Region.

Over two-thirds (68%) felt that government should focus on maintaining law and order rather than protecting human rights (18%). Only 11% said that both were equally important. It is interesting that respondents from all three major political parties gave almost equal high priority to law and order: Party of the Democratic Revolution (PDR) – 66%; National Action Party (PAN) – 69% and Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) – 70%.

The drug war continues to be a problem; only 37% think the government is making progress, compared to 47% in 2012. Fully 29% said the government is losing ground in the drug war and 30% think it is about the same as it has been in the past. Over half (56%) blame both Mexico and the USA for drug violence. Only 20% blame just the USA, while 17% blame just Mexico. The vast majority (85%) want the Mexican army to fight drug cartels and over half (55%) would like the US government to provide weapons and training to fight the drug war. Only 34% would like to have US troops in Mexico fighting the cartels.

Given that the drug war is not going well and the military is implicated in many human rights violations, it is surprising that 72% of survey respondents feel that the military has a good influence on Mexico. This was higher than any other institution. About 68% felt the national government has a good influence. Other institutions got lower scores: the media – 66%, President Peña Nieto – 57%, Congress – 45%, court system – 44%, and police – 42%.

Aside from crime and related issues, Mexicans identified several other major problems. About five in eight (63%) considered poor quality schools a very big problem, way up from 49% in 2012. This increase was probably related to the arrest of the teachers’ union president and focus on the dire need for education reform. Other very big problems were pollution (60%), terrorism (59%) and people leaving Mexico for jobs (53%). This last item is a bit surprising since in recent years (since the Great Recession) relatively few Mexicans have left in search of jobs.

The percentage viewing the USA favorably has changed considerably in recent years. In early 2010, before passage of Arizona’s restrictive immigration law, 66% viewed the USA favorably. After passage of the law, this dropped to 44%, compared to an unfavorable view of 48%, up from 27% before the law. Clearly passage of that law had a very big impact on Mexicans. However the favorable ratings increased to 52% in 2011, 56% in 2012 and 66% in 2013. Meanwhile the unfavorable ratings dropped to 41% in 2011, 34% in 2012 and 30% in 2013.

Only 17% said they had traveled to the USA, but 21% indicated their families received money from relatives north of the border. About 47% indicated that moving to the USA leads to a better life, while 18% say it leads to a worse life. However, 44% say having citizens living in the USA is bad for Mexico, an equal number say it is good for Mexico. Apparently, the view is that it is good for individuals to move to the USA, but such moves may not necessarily be good for Mexico as a whole. Consistent with this, 35% said they would move to the USA if they had the means and opportunity, 20% would migrate without authorization while 15% would only migrate if they had authorization.

It will be interesting to see how these opinions change when the 2014 survey is conducted.

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