What Do Americans Really Think of Mexico? Depends who you ask.

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.

2016 Survey Results

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.)

Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta (photo ©The Mexico Report)

 (Mexico photo ©The Mexico Report, pictured Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta)

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. 

Enrique de la Madrid, Mexico's Secretary of Tourism

Enrique de la Madrid, Mexico’s Secretary of Tourism

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. 

http://www.vianovo.com/assets/uploads/news/U.S.-Attitudes-About-Mexico-June-2016-final-release.pdf 

http://www.vianovo.com/assets/uploads/news/2016-Am-Public-and-Mexico-Survey-Topline-final.pdf  

Susie Albin-Najera is a freelance writer and works in the field of travel, marketing and entertainment. She is the creator and founder of The Mexico Report travel blog, author of The Real Heroes of Mexico, travel contributor to MOSH.us, and producer of Latino Thought Makers. She can be reached on Twitter or Instagram @TheMexicoReport. 
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Susie Albin-Najera
Susie Albin-Najera is the creator and editor of The Mexico Report, an award winning travel blog showcasing news, deals and resources for the modern traveler. Najera is a writer, author, travel blogger, marketing and public relations specialist and producer. Najera serves on the host committee for Maestro Cares, founded by singer Marc Anthony and producer Henry Cardenas; and on the advisory board for Corazon de Vida, providing aid to children in Mexico. She is also the creator of 'The Real Heroes of Mexico' showcasing community heroes in Mexico and producer of Latino Thought Makers. Najera has been recognized by the Mexican Consulate and Mexico Tourism Board for fostering positive relations between countries and her dedication to showcasing Mexico as a premiere destination. She can be reached at info@themexicoreport.com

10 comments for “What Do Americans Really Think of Mexico? Depends who you ask.

  1. Bonnie
    2016-07-27 at 2:05 pm

    Have been to Cancun almost every year for a week or two since 1987. Have also been to Playa del Carmen, Puerto Morelos, Isla Mujeres, Merida, Progresso, Villa Hermosa, Veracruz, and Tampico. Made many friends in Cancun, and one family in particular, when I visit, they invite me into their home and accept me as part of their family. They’ve helped me with my Spanish, and taught me to cook wonderful Mexican dishes. I’ve watched their children grow into wonderful adults. Needless to say, I love the people, the country, the food, the music and the customs. Viva Mexico!

  2. 2016-07-12 at 1:08 pm

    Hi Susie, I have been coming to Mexico since I was 12. I sell real estate in Rocky Point, Puerto Peñasco for 10 years (2.5 years in Vallarta).
    My house has been burglarized a few years ago, my friend was robbed 3 times in the last month in our neighborhood, as well as my rental clients, and many other breakins. The police chief is giving a presentation tomorrow about whats being done. Even through all this, we still live here, we want to live here. All areas (in the US) have their issues too. There’s thugs thieves and cowards everywhere. This is my truth. We have MANY visitors here buying property like crazy. We are getting more investors purchasing property for development, even famous wealthy businesspeople, plus the cruise ship home port being built. House Hunters International has been here, just finished their 4th filming recently. Would you be interested in our “Arizona’s/Las vegas’s Beach”?? Thanks!

  3. Jose Arias Jr
    2016-07-11 at 3:33 pm

    Being a Hispanic born in the U.S. the question is posed but your response is not represented properly. The question is “What do Americans Think about Mexico?’ They have given you their honest reply. I have been there for business, for my Honeymoon and have wanted to retire there. I no longer want to do that. Mexico needs to get their act together. Combat their crime… drugs, judicial reform and make it safe for their citizens that don’t think they need to flee north for their safety.

    • Susie Albin-Najera
      2016-07-12 at 9:00 am

      Hi Jose, thanks for the comments. I agree to a certain point that some things need to change, but overall Mexico is very safe especially for tourism. The poll in which the agency distributed, along with the headline, was irresponsible. It was misleading because more than half survey had never even been to Mexico. That’s like asking someone if they like pecan pie without ever tasting it, then putting out a national press release saying that most americans still don’t like pecan pie. It’s the same logic. And it feeds into the cycle of negative press about a country that is worth more attention. Not to mention, Mexico is our second largest trading partner. Their questions were skewed and certain ones were close-ended. So if you ask someone who has never been to Mexico but all they see is negative headlines, they are bound to just say what they heard. That’s why reinforcing this was nothing but irresponsible on the part of the agency and surveyors.

  4. 2016-07-11 at 3:24 pm

    Over half my life has been spent in writing novels set in Mexico between 1870 – 1920, and the reference library I accrued during that time contains wonderful volumes that continue to give me joy. My appreciation of the people, their history, and the culture knows no bounds. My 2 visits there were much too short; if I could retire somewhere on the west coast, I would. I treasure my local, long-time Mexican friends here in western NC, and am thrilled when I meet someone new.

  5. John
    2016-07-08 at 8:25 pm

    Susie Albin-Najera,
    We have vacationed in Mexico more than anywhere else in the world. We were met with only the greatest of friendships in the dozens of times we traveled there. If you want to know the Mexican people, you do not tiptoe across the border, but wade into the country where you experience true Mexican culture and people who love American visitors. The people we met in Mexico are friends for life.
    John

    • 2016-07-11 at 7:46 am

      Thanks John. Mexico needs more Ambassadors like you.

    • Susie Albin-Najera
      2016-07-11 at 7:50 am

      Thanks for the refreshing comments John. It’s nice to hear this feedback as media tends to saturate exposure toward the negative side of things.

  6. 2016-07-07 at 1:34 pm

    I reposted on all the pages I manage saying…shame on the poll takers!

    • Susie Albin-Najera
      2016-07-12 at 9:12 am

      Thanks so much Robin, much appreciated. It’s also a good reminder to not believe all the headlines you see about the image of Mexico. Cheers!

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