94% of those who know someone with a problem say the opiodic epidemic in the US is serious

For one in four Americans, the opioid crisis is personal – 23% in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll know someone who has a problem with opioid abuse. This is a group that transcends partisan politics. Republicans are as likely as Democrats to know someone. It is somewhat larger in the Northeast and Midwest than in the South or West, and bigger in smaller towns than in big cities or suburbs. But what sets this group apart is that they are much more likely to perceive that there is a serious problem both nationally and in their own communities, and they are much more likely to place blame and want treatment for abusers. In other words, they may be more likely to care.

While half the public believes the opioid crisis is a very serious problem in the country, three in four of those who know someone think this. And while just 21% of the public overall describes the problem in their own communities as very serious, nearly half of those who know someone who abuses opioids say the problem in their communities is very serious. 

Just about half the adults nationally are paying at least some attention to the opioid crisis, but that figure is dwarfed by the 80% attention level from those who know someone with a problem. 

Americans think many are at fault for the crisis, but the blame is mainly heaped on suppliers – not just drug dealers, but the pharmaceutical industry and doctors themselves. For those who know someone who is an opioid abuser, nearly two-thirds believe these group are at fault.

Most people feel opioid abusers should be dealt with through treatment, not by prosecution. On this, both those with a personal connection to the problem and the public overall agree. But there is a political exception: Republicans (and conservatives) are evenly divided on whether the government should treat those who use illegal drugs or prosecute those who use drugs illegally. That’s true even among those Republicans who know someone who has a problem with opioid abuse.

The President gets overwhelming agreement for his decision to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency. 66% agree with that decision, as do 82% of those who know someone affected. But while people like that decision, they are not at all sure that, overall, the President is doing a good job dealing with the crisis. 

More people disapprove than approve of how the President is handling the opioid crisis, though about a third aren’t sure. Those who know someone also disapprove, and by the same margin. They are simply more likely to have an opinion. After all, they are paying more attention.

Read more toplines and tables results here

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