How Mexicans see America
May 1st, 2013
09:24 AM ET

How Mexicans see America

By Juliana Menasce Horowitz, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Juliana Menasce Horowitz is a senior researcher at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are her own.

When U.S. President Barack Obama travels to Mexico this week, he will encounter a Mexican public that has far more positive attitudes about the United States than at any time in the last several years.

America’s image south of the border fell sharply in 2010, when Arizona passed a “show me your papers” law aimed at identifying, prosecuting and deporting immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally. But Mexican views have rebounded since then, and U.S. favorability ratings are now at their highest point since 2009. The prospects for U.S. immigration reform may be, at least in part, the source of renewed Mexican approval of their neighbor to the north.

A new Pew Research Center poll found that 66 percent of Mexicans have a favorable opinion of the U.S., up 10 percentage points from a year ago and up 22 points from May 2010, immediately following the enactment of Arizona’s immigration law. The last time America’s image was as strong among Mexicans was in 2009, when 69 percent said they had a favorable opinion.

Opinions of Obama, though more positive than in 2012, are still mixed – 49 percent express confidence in the American president, while 39 percent have little or no confidence in him, compared with a year ago, when 42 percent of Mexicans said they had confidence in Obama and 46 percent said they did not.

This boost in America’s image comes amidst rising expectations that Washington may soon reform U.S. immigration laws.

More than 11 million native-born Mexicans live in the U.S., including about 6 million who are in the country illegally – by far the largest segment of the undocumented population, according to estimates by the Pew Research Center. In June 2012, Obama authorized the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, giving more than one million undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children the chance to apply for temporary but renewable work permits and avoid deportation. It is estimated that 70 percent of those eligible for the program are from Mexico.

Obama carried the Latino vote by 71 percent to 27 percent in his 2012 reelection victory.  Since then, the president and a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators have been working on legislation that would remove the risk of deportation and open a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally. These legislative developments have been followed closely by the Spanish-language media.

But this resurgence in goodwill for America coexists with continued skepticism about Uncle Sam’s intentions and influence in Mexico. And Obama himself, although now more popular than a year ago, receives only lukewarm ratings there. The president’s trip, which is being billed by the White House as an “opportunity to reinforce the deep cultural, familial and economic ties that so many Americans share with Mexico and Central America,” is also a chance for Obama to improve his own image on several key issues regarding the U.S.-Mexico relationship.

One challenge will be to convince Mexicans that Washington sees them as a full partner. About half of Mexicans say their neighbor to the north takes Mexico’s interests into account; 45 percent say it does not. And while the vast majority of Mexicans generally sees the benefits of strong economic ties with the U.S., their opinions are more mixed about the impact America is currently having on Mexico’s economy, with 33 percent saying U.S. influence is positive and 28 percent saying it is negative.

Besides talks on economic ties and collaboration on immigration and border security, Obama is likely to hear from Mexico about the U.S. role in the country’s ongoing fight against drug traffickers.  Currently, 56 percent of Mexicans blame both the U.S. and their own country for the drug violence in Mexico, while one-fifth say the U.S. alone bears most of the responsibility.

Mexicans welcome their neighbor’s cooperation in combating this serious problem, with about three-quarters saying they want U.S. help in training Mexican police and military to combat drug trafficking, and 55 more than half saying they approve of the U.S. providing money and weapons to their country’s police and military. But they draw the line at any American boots on the ground, with 59 percent rejecting the deployment of U.S. troops to their country to fight narco-traffickers.

The drug war, immigration and the economic relationship between the U.S. and Mexico are among the items bound to be on the agenda when Obama visits Mexico this week, and Mexican opinion regarding U.S. involvement on these issues has shifted in a somewhat more positive direction in recent years. The question now is whether the two countries can build on the promise fostered by the proposed immigration policy and cement some the progress that appears to have been made.

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Topics: Mexico • United States

soundoff (189 Responses)
  1. Tom

    Mexicans see the U.S as an ignorant nation with a poor educational system.America is a continent not a nation!!

    May 2, 2013 at 8:26 am | Reply
  2. jack frost

    Every sign I see and all instructions on products are print in English and Spanish. If we have a immigration problem why do I the same with French, Arab, German,ect. instructions. It appears the every other immigrants can speak, read and write English. Is the Mexicans too stupid? We do not have a immigration problem. Just anyone from Asia who is try to move to the US. Only the Mexican can enter under the cover of night and claim they have a right to everything we have.

    May 2, 2013 at 9:35 am | Reply
    • Look at yourself

      It looks like you need to go back to school and learn to spell and write correctly my friend, your illiterate writing is very telling!

      May 2, 2013 at 10:14 am | Reply
  3. They Deserve Better

    What the U.S. needs to be doing is not taking advantage of these fine people who come to do hard labor and work here that no one else wants to do and then turn around and slap them on the face with deportation. Learn to appreciate their work and hard labor America! Quit shortchanging them with the continuing fear that they will vote Democratic and trounce Republicans. They deserve better!

    May 2, 2013 at 10:09 am | Reply
    • x3zy

      If they came here legally, they would not have this problem. They slap us in the face by making us cater to them and defy immigration laws.

      May 2, 2013 at 9:57 pm | Reply
    • The Facts About the Matter

      Actually no, x3zy, it is the other way around and has always been where Americans place a blind eye to these folks and give them work and then complain that they are here illegally. But what if those hiring them in reality did not need their services (fat chance!) What if they did not hire them to do the work that needs to be done? Then you would see the greatest mess ever in these United States as we could not get fruits and vegetables to our tables or other foods. Many roofs would go unfixed, many buildings would not be built, many homes would not get cleaned, many children would have no nannies. The list goes on and on. So, that premise that they defy immigration laws just doesn't and can't hold water. It is people who, in effect, hire them to do work that defy immigration laws, not they who are only trying to get ahead and feed their family.

      May 3, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Reply
  4. Todd Ward

    Who gives a sh-t what other countries think?

    May 2, 2013 at 10:27 am | Reply
  5. Swissarmyknife44

    Does anyone ever think...Why are all of these people risking everything to cross the US/Mexico border and come here? What makes it so appealing? Why would these people, of other countries, pay enormous amounts of money, walk or run through deserts at night, go days with no food or water to come here and even risk being thrown in jail? I know why. Their home countries suck. I have traveled to many of these countries for my job and know first hand just how bad it is. I am not talking resorts, I am talking working class towns. You have to drink bottled water (even for brushing your teeth), worry with all kinds of various diseases, being mugged, acosted by the police looking for bribes, no reliable power, drug gangs and many more issues that are too numerous to list.

    I even had an incident in Mexico where I traveled there to work for a week. Got to the plant and was asked to see my passport and entry papers. Well, I didn't get entry papers. My ignorance grant you, but, I was immediately put in a car and driven to the border and thrown out of the country. I was there illegally and I accepted that and went through the proper procedures to enter correctly.

    Over the last couple hundred years in the United States of America, we built a country that is a free power house in the world as we know it. However, we are not the only country that can achieve this.

    So I say to all the people here illegally. Accept the fact that you are breaking the laws of this land and return to the country from where you came, apologize to us (legal Americans) and enter the correct way if you so desire. We will welcome you with open arms.

    Or there's another option. Follow the example that the United States of America has set in the world and fix your own country to be like ours. I bet 9 times out of 10, if you do that, you will not have much desire to leave.

    May 2, 2013 at 11:36 am | Reply
    • Jessica

      You moron!!! We can't "fix our own" countries because YOUR government won't let us!!! You impose your will on us and make us your f-–g slaves WITHIN our own countries!!! Don't believe me? Look up the recent article on the fact that the CIA has Correa on their hit list. Why? Because he won't be your f-–g puppet! He's done good things for his people and they love him! The only place to be safe from you is to live within your borders!!!

      May 2, 2013 at 9:54 pm | Reply
  6. Steve in CT

    The Texas War for independence was about slavery. The texans from the south wanted to keep their slaves. Mexico outlawed slavery after the Spanish left. Any other spin is glorified BS

    May 2, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Reply
    • felipe

      preach my friend

      May 2, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Reply
    • x3zy

      Absolute crap! Slaves? I have heard this little lie before. Mexico could have cared less if Texas wanted to keep it's slaves. Human rights was not very high on the agenda of Mexico at that time.

      May 2, 2013 at 9:55 pm | Reply
      • felipe

        You sir, need a history lesson. Mexico abolished slavery in 1829, and made it quite clear when american settlers migrated there. The laws were ignored, and when the mexican government tried to stem further migration and place tariffs on goods imported from the US, as well as threatening military force to enforce the anti-slavery law, thats when texas declared independence. Learn your facts.

        May 4, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
  7. Jim

    Before they agree to any "immigration reform", I would insist on reversing the ridiculous "anchor baby" law.
    Why should a reward be given to someone for giving birth here?

    It brings about the same result as offering a graduated scale of "welfare benefits" the more kids you have....

    Both "solutions" exacerbate the existing problem.

    May 2, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Reply
  8. felipe

    To those people who claim Mexicans are a drain on the economy, how we offer nothing to this country, in fiscal year 2010, immigrants accounted for 18% of small business owners, and that is without accounting for people who own mom & pop type stores. Of those 18%, the largest minority group were Mexican, who accounted for 12% of said figure. And yet, we are illiterate, stupid, and should be thrown out this country.

    May 2, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Reply
    • David44236

      Felipe, We (US citizens!) don't care if the illegals are saints, sinners, doctors, teachers, whatever. It's rule of law or deportation. If you are a Swedish National, feeding the homeless each day and you broke our immigration laws....guess what, you are a criminal and you are not welcome in the US. Its about the LAW, not race.

      May 2, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Reply
    • Swissarmyknife44

      Only if you are here and living illegally. If you are here illegally, you are a drain on society. You would have to have false identification for work, false identification for drivers liscense, working for cash instead of a normal paycheck, and if you did get a paycheck with false identification and taxes are deducted along with social security...where does that money go? Our system is set up that if you are hurt or sick and go to the hospital emergency room, you cannot be turned away due to lack of funds to pay or no health insurance. And if you cannot pay, who covers that cost? The legal citizens of this country. You can't get car insurance with false identification so, if you wreck, who's going to pay for that? Legal citizens that have to carry "Uninsured Insurance" on their car. If you are here illegally and have children in school, you run the risk of being caught (though only a slight chance) and that costs money. What if you cannot afford to pay for lunch or books or other school supplies, those things will be provided, but who pays for it? What if you commit a crime and are sent to jail? who pays for you to be in jail? The legal citizens of this country. What if you are caught for being here illegally and deported back to your country of origin? The legal citizens of this country.

      If you come to the United States of America correctly, you will be welcomed, given all the freedoms and opportunities that so many have faught and died for and if you are a hard working, honest and caring citizen you will thrive. You will be counted as an American. You will also have to bare the same burden all the rest of us legal citizens have to bare. Oh and that would include the cost of illegal people being a burden on society. Feel like paying for that? I don't.

      May 2, 2013 at 1:18 pm | Reply
      • Jessica

        You are a burden on the world.

        May 5, 2013 at 1:36 am |
    • Jim

      If you're an immigrant, your legally here, and we are hoping for the best for your business success.
      If you're not legal, you're an illegal alien and your 1st act in this country is to break the law.

      .......that's not an immigrant..

      May 2, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Reply
    • felipe

      In response to all of your comments, first off, Id like to point out that in America, race is very much important. The problem is, most people see "Mexican" and "illegal alien" as synonymous with one another. And you place too much blame on illegal immigrants. Tell me, if you were born into extreme poverty, with no way whatsoever to provide for yourself or your family, and the only way is to migrate to a country where there is a demand for unskilled labor, what would you do? Keep in mind that visas are almost barely given out to people from your country. I'm sure most people would risk life and limb for a better tomorrow. You want to place blame? Place it on business owners who have no problem hiring the immigrants. Place it on a system that encourages such migration. And you want to talk about breaking laws? I'm sure all of you have either A) Done underage drinking or B) Smoked pot or any other recreational drugs. That's against the law.

      May 2, 2013 at 4:10 pm | Reply
      • x3zy

        Funny thing is that the employers of the illegals say "don;t blame us, blame the immigrants. If they didn't come here, we wouldn't be able to give them a job." Also, are you honestly comparing to underage drinking as a comparison to sneaking into a country?

        May 2, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
      • felipe

        Right, so its someone's fault for wanting to work. And yeah, underage drinking puts lives in danger, whereas 90% of illegal immigrants would just like to have a job. I'm not condoning illegal immigration, I'm simply saying Americans love to talk about law and order except when it comes to getting your ounce of pot.

        May 4, 2013 at 10:52 am |
  9. CW

    What a disgusting picture. Disrespect to the American flag while the flag of a country you do not live in is proudly flown. Pathetic.

    May 2, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Reply
  10. Dean

    CBS: Illegals Entering US Triple With Talk of Immigration Reform

    “Once the first group gets across, they call their family, they call their friends and let them know, ‘Hey the time is right, come on over,’” Border Patrol agent and union representative Chris Cabrera told CBS News.

    May 2, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Reply
  11. ug

    I didn't eveen read the stupid article but I am sure that it was sritten by a lib who hates this country and the illegals should try and come here illegally still...the illegals can go straight to heII like all libs can!

    May 2, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Reply
    • felipe

      So let me get this straight, you clicked the link of this article, but didn't read it, your sole purpose of such action being to bash the author, who simply reported what a poll found on another country, and immediately brand him a liberal and hating his country. Sir, if there are many people out in America who are as ignorant and retarded as you are, then I truly fear for the future of America.

      May 2, 2013 at 4:37 pm | Reply
  12. mickey

    about this native american thing...

    when are you signing the deed to your house over to the tribe whose stolen land it was built on?

    you are just as capable of righting this terrible wrong as anybody else...

    May 2, 2013 at 2:39 pm | Reply
  13. Kugellager

    To solve this immigration problem we need to repeal the 1965 immigration law known as the Hart/ Cellar Act which went into effect in 1968. This immigration law caused our population to explode from 200 million in 1967 to our current 315 million. All of the people who immigrated since 1968 should be deported along with their descendants. This country has been in decline and the quality of life for the 1968 citizens and their descendants has worsened. Teddy Kennedy and other sponsors of Hart/ Cellar were liars when they talked about the effects that Hart/Cellar would have in the future.

    May 2, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Reply
    • felipe

      Good idea. I have a suggestion. America doesn't need ignorant idiots so how about you volunteer and get the hell out.

      May 2, 2013 at 3:54 pm | Reply
      • Terry

        Dear Democrats and Republicans: Stop pandering to illegals. Not a single country in the world does that. This isn't racist or bigoted, it is common sense.

        May 5, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • Jessica

      Actually, this country went to hell after you kicked God out of the school system in 1963. What you sow so shall you reap!

      May 3, 2013 at 1:59 am | Reply
  14. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Let's face it, we have a border problem simply because we extended our borders illegally during the Spanish-American war. And by the way, why do all the South-Western states we confiscated from Mexico still have Spanish names? You know like...Arizona, New Mexico, Neveda, Texas, California. And why most of the towns in those states also have Spanish names? Perhaps that's what's also driving the Mexicans to come across the borders. I say let's annex Mexico and make it our 51st state.Problem solved!

    May 2, 2013 at 3:04 pm | Reply
    • Terry

      Why would we want annex more corruption, more third world country misery and ideology? I say we already have enough
      There is no need for immigration reform if we apply the law already in the books and that was blessed by Democrats and
      Republicans alike in 1986. It is a a pure shame the way that both parties are both pandering to illegal immigrants to get their votes. Never seen any country pandering to illegal immigrants

      May 5, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Reply
  15. Melody

    can everyone shut up about the Indians. My great great grandma was full blooded Cherokee, came down the trail of tears. It was a sad time IN THE PAST, which is what it is, in the past. We cannot go back in time to fix anything. All we can do is keep moving forward. America is going to become more over crowded than what it is. I do not belittle others for wanting to come make a better life for theirselves, just do it the legal way. It is just like breaking any other law.

    May 2, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Reply
    • Terry


      May 5, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Reply
  16. Elizabeth

    I am so sick of hearing "they are taking our jobs", that is pure BS. Below is a recent article from NBC

    There's a different sort of drought plaguing California, the nation's largest farm state. It's $38 billion agricultural sector is facing a scarcity of labor.
    "This year is the worst it's been, ever," said Craig Underwood, who farms everything from strawberries to lemons to peppers, carrots, and turnips in Ventura County.

    Some crops aren't get picked this season due to a lack of workers.

    "We just left them in the field," he said.

    The Western Growers Association told CNBC its members are reporting a 20 percent drop in laborers this year. Stronger border controls are keeping workers from crossing into the U.S. illegally, and the current guest worker program is not providing enough bodies. (Related: Massive US Drought Leads to Worst Fears for Corn Crop.)

    May 2, 2013 at 3:22 pm | Reply
    • Swissarmyknife44

      Wait a minute....I just had a revolutionary thought to give them more bodies to harvest the crops...Why don't we take the inmates from their prisons, put their sorry selves on a bus and force them to earn some of their up keep while they do their time and repay their dept to society.

      Another thought would be to take the people who receive government help (welfare, foodstamps etc) and let them pick the crops for a salary. There fore decreasing, and maybe only for a short while, the burden on society will be less. Oh, and as an incentative....don't show up for do not get your tax payer sponsored check in the mail.

      May 2, 2013 at 3:50 pm | Reply
      • Melody

        OMG!! Finally someone with a real solution for some problems here in AMERICA! That is the best idea I have heard all year! We are always worried about what other countries think and what other countries needs are. HEY, what about our own?

        May 2, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
  17. saveit

    Oh shut up!! will ya!! THIS country would crumble without LATINOS, period!!!!

    May 2, 2013 at 5:40 pm | Reply
  18. Andrew

    Mexicans have a favorable opinion of the US the same way a squatter has a favorable opinion of your house

    May 2, 2013 at 5:50 pm | Reply

    THIS IS THE MOST UNGRATEFUL IMMIGRANTS IN THE LAST 100 YEARS. when have immigrants ever came to the USA and shown absolutely no respect.

    May 2, 2013 at 9:09 pm | Reply
    • Terry

      In what country have you seen thousands of illegal immigrants that are supposedly "living in the shadows"demanding ( not asking with some degree of humility) legalization and citizenship flying the flags of their countries. Inaudito, unheard of

      May 5, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Reply
  20. protestor

    Well global warming is going to leave the united states a much drier place. And it seems that Canada has the largest supply of fresh water. So let the Mexicans have it and lets hop the Canadian border. One...Two....Three....go. See you on the other side guys

    May 2, 2013 at 9:15 pm | Reply
  21. Mas Snomis

    Let's be real here....our 'neighbors' to the south see us as the 'golden goose'...nothing more.....

    May 2, 2013 at 10:23 pm | Reply
  22. Capricorn

    Mexicans see a river and a wall. That is the only America they see.

    May 3, 2013 at 3:31 am | Reply
  23. Flerendip

    As long as they see it from their side of the border I don't really care.

    May 3, 2013 at 9:31 am | Reply
  24. Fourleaf Tayback

    I wonder what Mexicans think about their own much more rigid immigration and border security policies and practices with their Southern Border? I wonder if CNN would be kind enough to have Pew interview Mexico's Southern neighbors Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador?? Do Americans understand the double standard that Mexico and it's proponents of lax U.S. immigration and border security are perpetrating? Quite illuminating and hypocritical.

    May 3, 2013 at 9:43 am | Reply
  25. Fourleaf Tayback

    I think that it would be great to have the Gang of Eight on Immigration reform require Mexico to follow the identical measures that the U.S. would sign into law. Require Mexico to make the same changes to their Southern Border and general immigration and border security that the U.S. makes....that's all.

    I am guessing that will "knock them off their white horse".

    May 3, 2013 at 9:47 am | Reply
  26. John Janus

    mexico sucks and so do mexicans.

    May 3, 2013 at 2:19 pm | Reply
    • felipe

      Why don't you say that to my face instead of being an internet tough guy?

      May 4, 2013 at 10:56 am | Reply
    • Terry

      De acuerdo, Mexico always sucked and so are the majority of Mexicans

      May 5, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Reply
  27. Kae

    and when did it become so important that we actually cared about whether they liked us or not??? because their opinions are of some value to making our country better? here i thought america's priorities were all sorts of messed up.

    May 4, 2013 at 1:47 pm | Reply
  28. Zoglet

    I should imagine mexicans see Americans as fat, lazy, rude and unfriendly. Thats the general tone I get from the comments.

    May 5, 2013 at 8:48 pm | Reply
  29. Spf

    The Us needs Mexico as much as Mexico needs the US,if we follow some of the brilliant minds that post here things could get very ugly for the US as well.

    Be thankful that Mexico is an ally and supporter, or you rather Have Mexico invite China,N.Korea, Iran and Cuba for a back yard party.

    May 6, 2013 at 3:13 am | Reply
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