07/04/13 (written by tianacarriedo) – According to a Mitofksy Consultancy (Consulta Mitofsky) and Mexico United Against Crime (México Unido contra la Delincuencia, MUCD) poll, insecurity remains a top concern of Mexicans. The biannual 12th National Survey of Citizen Perceptions on Insecurity in Mexico (La Décimo Segunda Encuesta Nacional sobre Percepción de Inseguridad Ciudadana en México) showed that 32% of those surveyed found crime and insecurity to be the principal problem facing Mexico, edging out the economic crisis by a significant 8% points.
Notably, 27% believed that security had improved over last year, an increase over the last time the poll was conducted in October 2012. This comes despite no change in the rate of survey participants indicating having been a victim of crime or having known of someone who was a victim of crime in the previous three months. What more, certain crime reports point to a measurable increase in crime and violence over the past six months. For example, in the period between February and April 2013, reports of kidnappings increased 3.8% while between December and May 2013 cases of extortion increased 13.6%.
In keeping with previous survey results, a plurality of Mexicans, or 44%, believed that the media curtailed or minimized reports of insecurity. Where survey participants most held this view was in the northeast of the country, the same region where citizens least trusted the police and most trusted the military.
The disparity in figures regarding perceptions on crime and actual reports of crime may represent a strategic communications success for the new government. Since taking office in December 2012, many argue that Enrique Peña Nieto, a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI), has sought to transform the national discourse in Mexico. During the previous administration under Felipe Calderón (2006-2012), the war against organized crime formed the centerpiece of the national political and security agenda. Though the Peña Nieto administration has enacted only limited changes to the country’s anticrime and antinarcotics policy, there has been a real shift in the way the Mexican government presents information on drug-related violence. For example, in April of this year the federal government announced that it would no longer use “organized crime language” when detailing information about security matters and it asked the media to refrain from doing so as well. This came amidst a pullback in press conferences related to drug-related violence, the disappearance of narco-trafficker arrest announcements, and more importantly, insufficient government reporting of drug-related deaths, the last of which makes it difficult to accurately quantify trends in organized crime violence. (To read more about statistical reporting of drug violence in Mexico, click here).
According to a recent report by the Media Observatory on Violence (Observatorio de los Procesos de Comunicación Pública de la Violencia), the new communications strategy of the Mexican government has resulted in a reduction in media reporting of drug-related violence. The statistics laid out in the report speak volumes: on cable television news the presence of the words “organized crime” and “narco-trafficker” decreased 65% and 41%, respectively, while on the major news networks the presence of the same words decreased 70.2% and 44.2%. The report’s authors note that the reduction in news about organized crime began December 1, the day on which Peña Nieto assumed the presidency. (To read the full Media Observatory on Violence report, click here).
Arguably, the end result of this communication strategy is that Mexicans hear less about organized crime violence on the news and may, as a result, be more likely to believe that the security situation in Mexico has improved over the last year, despite reports that violence has increased or remained the same. As the Mitofsky Consultancy and MUCD survey demonstrates, though, this official effort to change the image of Mexico has limits: security is still the biggest concern among Mexicans.