Fewer See Better Life North of the Border, but 35% Would Migrate

On the eve of President Barack Obama’s visit to Mexico, the United States is enjoying a resurgence of goodwill among the Mexican public, with a clear majority favorably inclined toward their northern neighbor and more now expressing confidence in Obama than in previous years, according to a new national survey of Mexico by the Pew Research Center.

Roughly two-thirds (66%) of Mexicans have a favorable opinion of the U.S. – up from 56% a year ago and dramatically higher than it was following the passage of Arizona’s restrictive immigration law in 2010, when favorable Mexican attitudes toward the United States slipped to 44%.

Obama also receives higher ratings than he did in recent years. About half (49%) of Mexicans express confidence in the American president to do the right thing when it comes to world affairs, compared with 42% who said the same in 2012 and 38% in 2011. Mexicans’ confidence in Obama has yet to return to the level in his first days in office in 2009, when 55% gave him a high rating.

The nationwide face-to-face survey was conducted March 4-17 among 1,000 adults. This report on Mexico is the first from this spring’s 40-country survey. Findings from those countries will be released throughout the spring and summer. The survey of Mexico also finds:

Views of Immigration: More than 11 million Mexicans live in the U.S., including about 6 million who are in the country illegally. Mexicans are divided on whether this is good or bad for their country; 44% say it is good for Mexico, and an equal share say it is bad.

About six-in-ten (61%) say they would not move to the U.S. even if they had the means and opportunity to do so. A sizable minority (35%) say they would move if they could, including 20% who say they would emigrate without authorization.

Life in the United States: Mexicans are less likely than they were a year ago to say that people from their country who move to the U.S. have a better life there – 47% say life is better in the U.S., compared with 53% in 2012. Among those who have close friends or relatives living in the U.S., 70% say these friends or relatives have achieved their goals.

Three-in-ten Mexicans say they personally know someone who went to the U.S. but returned because the person could not find work. About a quarter (27%) know someone who has been deported or detained by the U.S. government for immigration reasons in the last 12 months. For more on Mexican migration to the U.S., see Net Migration from Mexico Falls to Zero – and Perhaps Less.

U.S.-Mexico Relations: About half (51%) say Washington considers Mexico’s interests when deciding international policy, while 45% say it does not. Opinion leaned in the opposite direction in 2012.

Although down slightly from 2009, 70% of Mexicans consider the deep economic ties between the two countries to be good for Mexico. When asked specifically about the influence the U.S. is currently having on economic conditions in their country, views are more mixed, with a third saying the U.S. is having a positive impact and 28% saying it’s having a negative impact.

The Drug War: Less often than a year ago, Mexicans say their government is making progress in its campaign against drug traffickers; 37% say this is the case, compared with 47% in 2012. An additional 29% now say the government is losing ground against the cartels, and 30% see no change. As in the past, Mexicans overwhelmingly support the use of the Mexican army to fight drug traffickers; 85% are in favor of this approach.

There is also support for some cooperation from the U.S. in the fight against Mexican drug cartels, but there is little enthusiasm (34%) for the deployment of U.S. troops to Mexico to fight drug traffickers. Most Mexicans (56%) blame both the U.S. and their own country for the drug violence in Mexico.

Peña Nieto and Key Issues: Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, whose election in 2012 marked the return to power of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) after 12 years in the opposition, is generally viewed positively in Mexico. More than half (57%) say he is having a good influence on the way things are going, while 38% see his influence as bad. Mexicans express mixed views of Peña Nieto’s handling of the economy, organized crime and drug traffickers, and corruption.

For the full survey, go to http://www.pewglobal.org/2013/04/29/u-s-image-rebounds-in-mexico/. This survey is for immediate release and is available at the Pew Research Center website at http://www.pewglobal.org.

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