Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Two-thirds of Americans, including a majority of racial and ethnic minorities, say the government should make voters show photo identification before voting, according to a new Fox 5/The Washington Times/ Rasmussen Reports survey.

The numbers come as the voter-identification battle is heating up, with more states considering requiring photo identification and with the Supreme Court two weeks ago hearing oral arguments in a challenge to Indiana’s photo identification requirement.

“Support for the concept is overwhelming,” said Scott Rasmussen, who conducted the poll, taken Jan. 16 and 17 of 1,000 adults. “What this number suggests to me is, it sounds like common sense in a society where you have to show ID to do just about anything.”

Overall, 67 percent said they support requiring photo identification, and that support ran high across all demographic groups. More than three-fourths of Republicans supported showing identification, as did 63 percent of Democrats and independents. And 58 percent of blacks, 69 percent of whites and 66 percent of other ethnic or racial minorities backed the concept.

The question was: “Should voters be required to prove their identity by showing a government issued photo ID before they’re allowed to vote?”

The issue is far more divisive in the political sphere, though, with Republican legislatures pushing it as an answer to voter fraud and Democrats fighting back, arguing it is an attempt to keep poor and minority voters from the polls.

“Undemocratic voter ID laws are just another part of a broad Republican effort to undermine our fundamental right to vote,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said when the Supreme Court heard the Indiana case two weeks ago.

During oral argument, though, the justices appeared to be leaning toward upholding Indiana’s law, one of the strictest in the nation.

One frequent swing vote, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, seemed to find Indiana’s law acceptable.

“You want us to invalidate a statute on the ground that it’s a minor inconvenience to a small percentage of voters?” he asked the challengers.

There is sporadic evidence of voter fraud, but studies have split on whether requiring identification would disenfranchise voters.

In the Fox 5/The Washington Times/Rasmussen Reports poll’s other questions, the survey found that if Martin Luther King were alive today and running for president, 44 percent of Americans would likely vote for him.

Among black voters, three in five, or 60 percent, were “very likely.” But among whites and other minorities the percentage was closer to one in five.

The poll also found Americans divided on who they blame for recent poor economic news. A plurality of 36 percent blamed politicians, 33 percent blamed families living beyond their means and 22 percent blamed “big business.”

And the survey found Americans strongly opposed to paying a higher gas tax even if the money would go to better infrastructure and repairs to prevent another bridge collapse such as the Minneapolis interstate collapse last year. Sixty-five percent opposed raising the tax from 18 cents to 40 cents a gallon, while only 19 percent supported it.

Mr. Rasmussen said that shows anti-tax sentiment continues to run high, as does wariness that the government would actually use the money for its designated use.

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