The headline of a recent press release posted on PRNewswire on June 28 read, “New Poll Shows Americans Continue to Have Deeply Negative Views of Mexico.” But do they really?
What the firm omitted from the press release was that the majority of Americans who were surveyed had never even been to Mexico and those who had, had only been once or a few times. Only one percent reported traveling to Mexico frequently.
The headline of the press release could have easily read, “Positive Image of Mexico Increases Among Americans” because results show that the perception of Mexico among Americans increased by five percent, from 17 percent in 2012 to 22 percent in 2016.
This national poll was developed by Austin-based agency GSD&M and strategic consultancy Vianovo and conducted via market research firm YouGov.com. The survey was fielded June 3-7, 2016 among 1,000 adults (18+) who were interviewed online to gauge Americans’ attitudes about the country of Mexico.
This sloppy, ‘If it bleeds, it leads’ reporting traps the media into an endless cycle of negativity and reinforces stereotypes. If the foreign press only wrote about gang shootings in Chicago ad nauseam, then people would think we were in constant state of street warfare. Who would ever want to visit the violent and dangerous United States?
The negative headline delivered in the press release is also the exact reason why Mexico continues to face an unfavorable perception problem (among those who have not traveled there), in which the translation fuels a dangerous cycle of repetitious negativity.
Further aggravating the problem, is the multiplication of these negative headlines about Mexico which are then picked up and spread by other media outlets such as The Drum, which published a post on June 30, titled, “Americans View the Mexico brand in an unfavorable light according to a recent study” which was then picked up by ScoopNest which was then shared all over social media and so on. Add a presumptive republican nominee painting our southern neighbors as “drug dealers and rapists”, and you begin to see a grossly misrepresented image of Mexico.
Skewed surveys are part of the problem: When asked if, in the past month or so, had they seen, read or heard anything recently about Mexico, 56 percent said they had not and 44 percent said they had. Of those who had read something about Mexico, more than half (51 percent) of the news (seen, read or heard) was unfavorable. If the title of the press release would have noted positive results from the study, those who had heard news about Mexico, would have been more likely to hear positive news.
Perception equals reality? Remember, more than half (55 percent) of those surveyed in their study have never been to Mexico. Should those 55 percenters have been disqualified from making negative assumptions about a country they have never visited? Further, 62 percent of those surveyed didn’t know anybody from Mexico (they reported having no friends, family or colleagues in the U.S. who were born in Mexico.)
Here are some highlights from the poll conclusions also not mentioned in the press release from the 1,000 participants surveyed:
- Americans’ perception and image of Mexico has increased (up from 17 percent in 2012 to 22 percent in 2016)
- Americans who believe that Mexico is Safe for Travel has increased (up from 12 percent in 2012 to 18 percent in 2016)
- Americans who believe Mexico is a good place to do business has increased (up from 32 percent in 2012 to 35 percent in 2016)
- 76 percent of those surveyed believe Mexico has a rich cultural heritage, which was recorded as the highest percentage in the category of ‘Statements Regarding Perceptions of Mexico’ (over corruption and safety)
- The majority of those surveyed had a favorable (17 percent), very favorable (5 percent) or no opinion (33 percent) of Mexico or 55 percent in total
- More people associate Mexico with its rich cultural heritage than with corruption or safety
- 55 percent of those surveyed have never even been to Mexico
- 62 percent of those surveyed have no friends, family or colleagues in the U.S. who were born in Mexico
- Also interesting was that, of the 1,000 participants surveyed age 18 and older, nearly one-fourth were not registered to vote (24 percent) and six participants didn’t even know if they were registered or not.
Is this the type of person that should determine Mexico’s image, when only one percent of those surveyed reported traveling to Mexico frequently?
And although 65 percent of the people surveyed in this poll think Mexico is a dangerous or unstable/unsafe country, (again worth repeating) 55 percent have never been to Mexico, and 17 percent had only been to Mexico once. I ask, how can the majority have a negative perception of Mexico when they, the majority, have never visited Mexico? The answer is media and negative headlines.
The fact (through ticket sales and confirmed future bookings) is that Mexico constantly tops the lists of international travel by Americans year after year as reported by the largest tour operators in the U.S. as well as sellers of travel including AAA Travel, travel agents, travel consortia, travel publications and so on. In 2016 alone, Mexico has consistently topped the lists for travel. Mexico City topped the New York Times’ list of 52 places to visit in 2016; Playa del Carmen in Riviera Maya Named as TripAdvisor’s Top 25 World’s Best Destinations 2016; Virtuoso named Mexico in Hot 10 List for 2016 summer travel and so forth. (Other big headlines in Mexico travel: Guadalajara was named Hottest Destination of 2015 by Condé Nast Traveler; San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato was selected as the number one city in the world by Condé Nast Traveler in 2013 just to name a few.)
Watch Mexico’s Secretary of Tourism, Enrique de la Madrid, address anti-Mexico rhetoric in a recent NY1 News interview.
Negative reporting and misleading headlines are the exact reason I started my blog, The Mexico Report, seven years ago, in order to educate and provide an alternative image of Mexico, including The Real Heroes of Mexico showcasing heroes in Mexico doing outstanding work in the community, the ones you never hear about in mainstream news.
Mexico has a wealth of offerings in business, trade, tourism, cuisine, art, wine, UNESCO World Heritage sites, magical towns (Pueblos Mágicos), biodiversity, manufacturing, technology, history, architecture, culture, people, expat life, health/wellness, sports, weddings and much more.
The results of the study are below for reference. If you have never been to Mexico, keep things in perspective when sharing news and consider the sample from which the conclusions are drawn, in this case, those surveyed. Do yourself a favor and get to know the real Mexico, not the Mexico reported to you by the media from those who have never been. Let’s celebrate our southern neighbors and focus on what unites us, not what separates us.