Three in four likely voters (76%) believe the U.S. war on drugs is failing, a sentiment that cuts across the political spectrum – including the vast majority of Democrats (86%), political independents (81%), and most Republicans (61%). There is also a strong belief that the anti-drug effort is failing among those who intend to vote for Barack Obama (89%) for president, as well as most supporters of John McCain (61%).But the nation remains sharply divided over what to do about it:
When asked what they believe is the single best way to combat international drug trafficking and illicit use, 27% of likely voters said legalizing some drugs would be the best approach -- 34% of Obama supporters and 20% of McCain backers agreed.It's a shocking result that voters who favor legalizing drugs outnumber those who think "stopping drugs at the border is the best tactic." Coupled with the 13% who favor foreign interventionism, that's 38% who chose essentially an "enforcement first" tactic. By comparison, combining those who favored outright legalization with those who favor "reducing demand through treatment and education," we find 46% of the public are looking for demand-side alternatives to combating drug abuse besides criminal enforcement.
- One in four likely voters (25%) believe stopping the drugs at the border is the best tactic to battle drugs -- 39% of McCain supporters, but just 12% of Obama backers agree.
- Overall, 19% of likely voters said reducing demand through treatment and education should be the top focus of the war on drugs.
- 13% believe that the best way to fight the war on drugs is to prevent production of narcotics in the country of origin.
These numbers represent a fragmented public, but I guess it's at least comforting to know that most voters in both parties strongly believe the current approach has failed. The question then becomes, "what to do instead?"