U.S. Image Rebounds in Mexico

Pew Research, April 29, 2013

On the eve of President Barack Obama’s visit to Mexico, the United States is enjoying a resurgence of good will among the Mexican public, with a clear majority favorably inclined toward their northern neighbor and more now expressing confidence in Obama.

A national opinion survey of Mexico by the Pew Research Center, conducted March 4-17 among 1,000 adults, finds that 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. Still, 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.

Mexicans are also now more of the view that the U.S. takes their country’s interests into account when deciding international policy. About half (51%) say Washington considers their country’s interests, while 45% say it does not. In 2012, opinion leaned in the opposite direction – 56% said the U.S. did not consider Mexico’s interests, compared with 40% who said it did.

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Views on immigration

More than 11 million Mexicans live in the U.S., including about 6 million who are in the country illegally.1 Mexicans are divided on whether this is good or bad for their country; 44% say it is good for Mexico that many of its citizens live in the U.S., and an equal share say this is bad for Mexico.

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

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. About one-in-five (18%) say Mexicans have a worse life in the U.S., while 29% say it is neither better nor worse. However, among those who have close friends or relatives living in the U.S., 70% say these friends or relatives have achieved their goals, while just 25% believe they have been disappointed.

Three-in-ten Mexicans say they personally know someone who went to the U.S. but returned to Mexico 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.

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