US opinion of Mexico drops to RECORD LOW under Obama

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Americans’ attitudes towards Mexico have dropped to a record low since President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration, according to a new survey conducted for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

The survey also shows that majorities of Americans and Mexicans agree on one major issue — that their governments should tighten security at the border separating them.

The survey, which was quietly released before Obama flew to Mexico for a Feb. 19 summit, shows that Americans’ opinion of Mexico has dropped from a nearly neutral level of 46 points in 2010 to a decidedly negative view of 36 points this February.

A score of 50 points marks a neutral attitude on the 100-point scale. In 1994, the U.S. attitude towards Mexico reached a positive level of 57 percent.

Today’s 36-point level is a record low, according to the survey, released Feb. 3.

Obama is expected to speak at a press conference this evening in Mexico, after his one-day summit with Mexico’s president and Canada’s prime minister.

“While Leaders are talking about having enhanced economic and energy [investment] policies, the American public has grown more negative over the last couple of years towards Mexico,” Dina Smeltz, senior fellow for public opinion and foreign policy at the Chicago Council told The Daily Caller.

The Chicago council is run by local business leaders, and backs increased trade and immigration flows between the two countries.

Americans’ attitude towards Mexico are swayed by cross-border crime, but also by the contentious issue of immigration. Independent polls show high public opposition in American to the inflow of foreign workers from Mexico and other countries. (RELATED: GOP congressmen warn Boehner against ‘very unpopular’ business push for guest workers)

The Chicago survey shows that Mexicans’ attitudes towards the United States remain positive, but have also dipped from 68 points in 2010, to 64 points in February. Mexicans’ attitudes reached a positive level of 71 points in 2012.

In June of 2012, Obama rolled back enforcement of immigration law, and allowed more than 500,000 younger illegal immigrants to work in the U.S. — despite the nation’s high unemployment rate. Subsequently, Obama scored 71 percent of the Hispanic vote in the 2012 election.

The survey showed that Mexicans strongly oppose the U.S. push for greater commercial investment in Mexican oil reserves. For decades, Mexico’s oil reserves have been under the control of the state, limiting domestic and U.S. investment opportunities.

Sixty-eight percent of Mexicans oppose private sector investment, says the survey.

Both populations also disagree over the value of the NAFTA free-trade deal between the two countries.

Sixty-four percent of Mexicans believe the deal was good for Mexico’s economy, while only 50 percent of Americans believe it is good for the U.S. economy. Fifty-five percent of Americans believe the deal was good for U.S. companies, but only 38 percent of Americans say it helped create jobs in the United States.

The border also marked the most divisive issue between Americans and Mexicans.

Sixty-two percent of Americans and 43 percent of Mexicans believe the two government are working in “different directions” on border security. In contrast, 51 percent of Mexicans and 34 percent of Americans believe the two government are working in the same direction on border security.

But both Americans and Mexicans agreed on one major issue — the need to bolster border security.

“By a 7 to 2 margin, Americans believe it is more important to keep government attention on security issues (72%) than to put greater emphasis on the economy, trade, and energy (23%),” said the council’s report on the survey.

By 51 percent to 38 percent, Mexicans want their government to focus on border security than on new trade, said the poll.

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Neil Munro