MEXICO CITY — Maybe it should come as no surprise, after months of President Trump's talk about walling off Mexico, crumpling up the NAFTA trade deal and evicting immigrants, that Mexicans aren't looking too kindly on the United States or its leader these days.
New data released Thursday from a Pew Research Center survey confirms those suspicions. The Mexican public opinion poll shows gloomy views on everything from Mexicans' thoughts about the United States (65 percent are unfavorable), their image of Trump (93 percent have no confidence in him) and their sense of their own country's direction (85 percent are dissatisfied).
These views are sharply different from sentiments expressed during the Obama administration. Only 25 percent of Mexicans viewed the United States negatively two years ago.
The results released Thursday come from a poll conducted in March and April as part of the Pew global attitudes survey published in June. That report showed a big swing in negative Mexican opinions about the United States and sharp disapproval of Trump's plan to build a border wall.
The most negative opinions are reserved for Trump. Just five percent of Mexicans express confidence in the U.S. president, compared with 49 percent who were confident about President Barak Obama in 2015.
Since the beginning of Trump's presidential campaign, Mexico has been a frequent target. Trump has blamed illegal immigration from Mexico and Central America for many U.S. problems, accusing undocumented residents of taking jobs away from citizens and increasing the U.S. crime rate. He has called the North American Free Trade Agreement the worst trade deal in history. And he continues to push for funding for a border wall while insisting that Mexico will pay for it.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto's administration has wrestled with how to respond to Trump, but in general, the government has sought a polite diplomatic tone and pushed to preserve close ties with the United States.
That approach may not be helping Peña Nieto. The Pew survey found that the Mexican leader's popularity stood at 28 percent, the lowest since Pew began asking about Peña Nieto in 2011, before he was president. Mexican polls have put his approval rating even lower. Respondents identified the struggling economy, corruption and drug-related violence as the top three reasons why they've lost faith in their president, with Peña Nieto's handling of U.S.-Mexico relations ranked fourth on the list.
Mexican commentators who've grown increasingly frustrated with Trump's finger-pointing and condemnation argue that Mexico's growing animosity toward the U.S. president may push its politicians to fight back more forcefully against the United States. Jorge Guajardo, Mexico's former ambassador to China, wrote in a recent opinion piece for Politico that the “political pressures in Mexico pushing our president away from the U.S. are becoming impossible to control.”
This has implications for next year's presidential election in Mexico, where leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is a front-runner, and for future cooperation on migration, the drug war and a host of other issues.
As Guajardo wrote, Mexicans “would rather wrap ourselves in the flag and jump to our deaths than be humiliated.”