July 15, 2005 — -- Twenty-one years after federal legislation made 21 the national minimum drinking age, Americans by a wide margin continue to support the restriction -- and three-quarters see underage drinking as a serious problem in their communities.
Nearly eight in 10 Americans oppose lowering the drinking age in all states to 18. Even among young adults, age 34 and under, 73 percent oppose allowing 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds to drink alcohol.
Part of the issue is that, although illegal, underage drinking is seen as a problem. Not only do 75 percent say it is a serious problem in their communities, but one-third call it "very" serious, rising to 44 percent of lower-income Americans.
The current age restriction was signed into law by President Reagan on July 17, 1984. Its support today is nearly identical to its level then -- 79 percent in a Gallup poll in June '84.
There are some differences among other groups: Southerners and Westerners are more likely than those in the Northeast to say underage drinking is a very serious problem in their communities. And women are somewhat more likely than men to call it a very serious problem, 37 percent to 28 percent.
Support for lowering the drinking age, while still low, is a bit higher in the Northeast than elsewhere, and a bit higher among men than women. Republicans are more likely than Democrats or Independents to see underage drinking as a problem in their communities, but they're not significantly more likely to oppose lowering the legal drinking age.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone May 18-22, 2005, among a random national sample of 1,003 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.