- The Washington Times - Monday, April 23, 2007

A new poll shows that 70 percent of Americans support the introduction of national standards for driver’s licenses under the Real ID Act, despite opposition from several state legislatures and charges that the program amounts to a national ID card.

The poll, a UPI/Zogby survey of nearly 6,000 adults across the country, also found that a large number — more than 44 percent — would support a federal law mandating compulsory national biometric ID cards for all U.S. residents. A slim majority — 51 percent — would oppose such a national ID scheme however, and nearly one in four opposed the Real ID Act.

Opponents of the Real ID Act played down the figures, saying they reflected they absence of real national debate on the issue, and that the opposition from a growing list of state legislatures to the new law was a better gauge of U.S. opinion.

Support for Real ID was stronger among those who called themselves conservatives, of whom 84 percent support the law, and moderates (75 percent); while opposition was strongest among libertarians (51 percent) and progressives (49 percent). Still, nearly 30 percent of those calling themselves libertarian favored a compulsory national ID law. Conservatives were the only ideological group where a majority (54 percent) supported such a move.

Support for the Real ID law, which is scheduled to take effect next year, was more prevalent among those who held a favorable view of President Bush’s performance in keeping the country safe from terrorism. Those who saw border/immigration or transportation security as the most important threats to the homeland — as opposed to those who feared rising anti-Americanism or Islamist radicalization — also tended to favor the law by higher margins than the population as a whole.

Jay Stanley of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Technology and Democracy Project cautioned against reading too much into the results. He said historic polling data on the issue showed a wide variation in levels of support for a compulsory national ID.

Some polls taken right after September 11 terrorist attacks showed as many as 70 percent in favor, he said, but that support quickly dropped back as time went on. Support has fluctuated since from a majority to as low as 26 percent, he said.

“It is such an abstract question,” he said. “It is not something that most people have thought a lot about” and much depends on “the exact wording” of the question.

The UPI/Zogby survey of a chosen pool of 5,932 representative adults was conducted online from April 13 to 16 and has a margin of error of 1.3 percentage points. It asked people whether they supported “The Real ID program, which requires each state to change their driver’s license systems to meet national standards and ensure that their databases are compatible with other states.”

Mr. Stanley said that in state legislatures, where people who followed the issue had debated it, large majorities had come out against the new law.

“It has been a tidal wave across the nation that could only have happened if they were reflecting widespread public revulsion,” he said.

“They understand the implications” for privacy, he said of state legislators who actually have to implement the federal orders. “They understand what unfunded mandates are.”

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