Sep 18, 2023 - Health

Security concerns give GOP edge on the opioid crisis: Poll

Data: Morning Consult; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Morning Consult; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans most often blame Mexican drug cartels for the country's opioid crisis — followed by drug users themselves, according to Morning Consult polling data provided exclusively to Axios.

Why it matters: Voters see the crisis as more of a security issue than a health issue, an accompanying analysis argues, giving Republicans an edge on the issue heading into the 2024 elections.

  • "[G]iven the salience of the issue and the relative credibility of the GOP on immigration and security among U.S. voters, we expect Republican candidates to continue to focus on drug trafficking in general and the foreign policy of fentanyl in particular," wrote Morning Consult managing director Sonnet Frisbie.

The big picture: Republican politicians repeatedly invoke the fentanyl crisis alongside migration issues, sometimes misleadingly, although much of the U.S. supply does come from Mexico across the southern border.

  • Survey respondents said they trust congressional Republicans more than Democrats on national security and immigration issues.
  • Democrats, meanwhile, are more trusted on health care.

The intrigue: Voters in border states blame the U.S. government for the opioid crisis more than other voters do by an 11 percentage point margin.

  • They're also more likely than the general population — and nearly as likely as Republicans — to say that punishing drug users would be a "very effective" way to limit the supply of illegal drugs in the country.
  • "This tendency toward enforcement, coupled with their frustration with the federal government over the drug epidemic, is a risk factor for Arizona's Democratic candidates in the upcoming presidential and Senate races, and in several competitive House districts along the border that are in play in 2024," the analysis concludes.

Go deeper: Opioids surged past guns as Americans' top public health concern, last month's Axios-Ipsos American Health Index found.

Methodology: This survey was conducted Aug. 29-Sept. 1 among a representative sample of 1,995 registered voters.

  • Results from the full survey have an unweighted margin of error of ±2 percentage points.
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