According to a recent Gallup poll, there’s a significant change in Americans’ sentiment toward the nation’s handling of the illegal drug problem and its casualties. According to this survey, which has been tracking public opinion since 1972, a majority of U.S. adults, a whopping 52%, now believe that the country is falling behind in its efforts to manage the illegal drug issue, Gallup reports.
While High Times readers may think, well, of course, the feds are failing; this poll marks the first instance in its history where such a negative majority opinion has been recorded. Before 2019, their polling showed that Americans were optimistic that the country was making progress combating illegal drugs, with the approval stats clocking in at 41%.
The latest results reveal that only 24% of the participants maintain that the U.S. has made progress in this area, setting a new low in the trend. Additionally, 23% of respondents believe the situation has remained static.
The central villain in this story is fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, which has caused drug overdose fatalities to spike. According to USAFacts, in 2022, 73,654 people died from a fentanyl overdose in the U.S. This is more than double the amount of deaths from three years prior in 2019. Fentanyl deaths have increased every year for the past decade.
However, as much as drug enthusiasts would love to blame fentanyl, there are other culprits in play. Gallup reports that since 2019, there has been an escalation in overdose cases associated with other drugs, including cocaine and methamphetamines.
America’s view on handling illegal drugs shows a divide among political parties — and presidents. Republicans do not think that progress is being made. A mere 12% of Republicans responded that they felt we were headed in the right direction, while 75% feel we’re regressing. The Democrats were much more optimistic. 40% answered that they consider the situation improving, compared to 27% who think it’s worsening. Independents clocked in somewhere in the middle, with 22% seeing progress and 52% feeling that the situation is going down the drain.
Gallup reports that voters may be more likely to respond positively based on who is in the White House, which explains why the Democrats were more glass-half-full than the Republicans. And, of course, Republicans are historically more conservative about drug use. Even though some of the liberal’s most loathed figures, such as Matt Gaetz, a U.S. representative from Florida, are joining leftist hero Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, aka AOC, the U.S. representative for New York’s 14th congressional district, in the right to help pass pro-psychedelic and cannabis legislation. Most recently, Gaetz proposed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization to cease cannabis testing for military members.
Conservative Dan Crenshaw of Texas, a former Navy SEAL, is also pushing for changes to drug policy. In July 2023, Crenshaw and AOC hosted a press conference recognizing progress with a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that directs the Secretary of Defense to conduct a clinical report on psychedelic treatment in military treatment facilities.
Despite a tendency to feel better about things when your party is president, the Democrats aren’t thrilled with Biden. The same data from Gallup shows that Democrats responded less positively reading the illegal drug situation under Biden than Republicans did under Trump in 2019.
Biden has been careful to walk the tightrope of acting pro-cannabis legalization without following through. “I believe the president has displayed a regressiveness for cannabis policy,” said AOC in July. “And if there’s a regressiveness toward cannabis policy, it’s likely to be worse on anything else,” she added.
While both voters and lawmakers are let down by Biden’s failure to reschedule cannabis, according to the Gallup poll, 74% of U.S. adults see the government’s failure to address casualties from illegal drugs as “extremely or very serious.” This is up from 64% in 2021. The highest concern was recorded in 2000, when the question was first asked, clocking in at 83%.
Interestingly, while Americans are upset with the national handling of illicit drugs, they voice less concern in their local areas. 35% rate it as extremely serious (19%) or very serious (16%). This figure is almost equivalent to the record 34% in 2000.
In light of the terrifying increase in overdose deaths from fentanyl and other opioids, in addition to deaths from substances such as cocaine, the American public has never been more pessimistic regarding the government’s handling of illegal drugs, even if they don’t carry that same concern in their hometowns, where it may be harder to criticize.
Perhaps most importantly, this data shows that drug policy will shape the upcoming 2024 presidential election in numerous ways. To start, there is pressure to decriminalize cannabis on a federal level. A new Gallup poll published on November 8 showed that an estimated 68% of Americans, or seven out of every ten individuals, said “yes” to the poll questions, “Do you think the use of marijuana should be legal, or not?,” as High Times reports. And now, additionally, as this latest poll shows, voters also want a leader who can stop the deadly drugs from taking any more American lives. If AOC is right about Biden, and he isn’t cut out for the task, voters must consider that Trump could once again find his way into the White House.