THE level of concern over the scourge of illegal drugs in the United States stands at the highest level in polling history, according to two new Gallup surveys. And Americans are ready for strong action. The Gallup results only confirm and add detail to what other polls have been showing for months - that drugs top the list of serious problems for more Americans than any other issue.
But coming in mid-August, the findings help set the scene for what the Bush administration is clearly expecting to be one of its strongest initiatives this fall.
Narcotics Control Director William Bennett will announce his across-the-board plan for battling drugs during the first week in September.
Dr. Bennett embraced and helped promote the poll results. Any greater sense of urgency they convey may increase the pressure for politicians to act.
That could mean that liberal congressmen will be pressed to accept controversial aspects of Bennett's proposals. It could also mean the Bush administration is pressed to resort to new taxes to pay for them.
Gallup took two polls, one of adults and one of teen-agers. Both polls found drugs far outstrip other public concerns, that people have a wide personal knowledge of the problem, and that people favor action of all kinds, from getting tough to offering better treatment for abusers.
One teen in four polled had been offered drugs in the previous 30 days.