BJS: Bureau of Justice Statistics

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Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)
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Drugs and Crime Facts

Public opinion about drugs

As reported in the 2003 BJS Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, the percentage of Gallup Poll respondents describing drug abuse as the single most important problem facing our country peaked in 1989:

Date of poll   Drug abuse most serious problem

May 1989   27 %
July 1990   18  
March 1991   11  
March 1992   8  
January 1993   6  
January 1994   9  
January 1995   6  
May 1996   10  
January 1997   17  
April 1998   12  
May 1999   5  
March 2000   5  
January 2001   7  
March 2002   3  
February 2003   2  
June 2004   1  


Among Gallup Poll respondents, the use of drugs was most often mentioned as one of the biggest problems for schools in their communities. Giving that response in 2003 were --
  • 7% of public school parents
  • 10% of those with no children in school
  • 9% of all surveyed.

When asked about spending for various social problems, 56% of the respondents to a 2002 National Opinion Research Center (NORC) Poll said this country is spending too little to deal with drug addiction.

In 2001 the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press reported that respondents were asked the most effective actions the government could take to control the use of drugs --

  • 52% said "stop the illegal importation of drugs from other countries"
  • 49% said "arrest people who sell illegal drugs in the this country"
  • 36% said "provide drug treatment programs for drug users"
  • 35% said "educate Americans about the dangers of using illegal drugs"
  • 30% said "arrest drug users in the country"
NORC has asked adults (age 18 or older) about legalization of marijuana since 1973. In 2002, 34% believed that marijuana should be made legal, which compared to the peak of 30% in 1978. College freshmen have been surveyed by NORC since 1968. In 2003, 40% of those surveyed agreed strongly or somewhat that marijuana should be legalized, down from a peak of 53% in 1977 and up from a low of 17% in 1989. Of 2003 high school seniors --
  • 30% felt using marijuana should be legal, compared to the peak of 33% feeling that way in 1978 and a low of 16% in 1986
  • 53% reported worrying often or sometimes about drug abuse, down from 66% in 1978 and 83% in 1990.

Source: The Gallup Report, National Opinion Research Center, and the BJS Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, 2003.

 



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