Poll : One Out Of Three Mexicans Would Move To U.S. If They Could

Poll: One out of three Mexicans would move to U.S. if they could

By Matt O'Brien
The Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, CA), September 23, 2009

Frustrated by crime and the economy at home, most citizens in Mexico see a better life in the United States and one out of three would move here if they could, according to a poll.

The recession and high unemployment north of the border have done little to dampen the favorable views that Mexicans have of their neighbor, although fewer Mexican immigrants now live here.

About 57 percent of Mexicans think that those who settled in the United States enjoy a better life, compared with 51 percent who thought so in 2007, according to the survey released Wednesday by the Pew Global Attitudes Project.

In addition, about 18 percent of Mexicans said they would move here even if they had no authorization to migrate, but the means and opportunity to do so anyway.

The views that many Mexicans have of life up north are informed by close family and community connections, said Pleasanton resident Jose Andres Castillo.

'Communication between family members is very tight,' said Castillo, head of a club for Bay Area immigrants from the Mezquital Valley of Mexico's Hidalgo state. 'People hear about how life is here, and hear that even though there's crisis here life is a little better.'

About 81 percent of Mexicans surveyed said crime is a very big problem in their country, and high numbers also were concerned about economic problems, illegal drugs and corrupt political leaders.

Despite concerns about the direction Mexico is heading in, the poll revealed support for President Felipe Calderon and wider support for the war against drug traffickers that he has waged since taking office in late 2006.

About 69 percent of Mexicans said they had a favorable view of the United States, compared with 47 percent who had a favorable view last year a marked change that researchers attribute, at least in part, to positive impressions of President Barack Obama.

Fond visions of life in America do not mean that more Mexicans are coming here, however. In fact, newly released U.S. Census Bureau data say the opposite an estimated 300,000 fewer Mexican-born immigrants were in the country in 2008 than the year before.

A bulk of that drop took place in California, which has shed tens of thousands of construction and manufacturing jobs in which Latino immigrant workers were heavily represented. In Alameda County, the total proportion of foreign-born residents dropped to 29.7 percent last year from 30.9 percent in 2006.

Castillo estimates about 1,500 Bay Area residents hail from his rural valley in Hidalgo, but most of them came in the 1990s. A combination of factors, from the economy to tougher border enforcement, have reduced the willingness of Mexicans to take the risk to move here, he said.

'The perspectives have changed a lot in the last few years,' he said in Spanish. 'We usually hear about it when somebody new arrives. Now, it's rare for someone to come.'

The poll showed that 87 percent of Mexicans are satisfied with their own lives, and 54 percent described their own economic situation as good, a 6-point drop from a year ago.

'Mexicans realize that the current economic downturn in the United States has a negative impact on them, too,' said Richard Wike, associate director of the global poll.

The project surveyed 1,000 citizens in face-to-face interviews in Mexico this spring, and pollsters did the same for other countries throughout the world. Mexicans this year had a more favorable view of the United States than Canadians, Brazilians and Argentines the other three Western Hemisphere countries included in the project, which is part of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.

The full results of the Mexico survey can be viewed at: pewglobal.org/reports/pdf/266.pdf.


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