American People Distrust Real ID, Point to Unacceptable Privacy Threat, New Poll Finds

May 23, 2007 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON, DC – A new poll released today finds deep distrust among American voters about new driver’s licenses that would store every American’s personal information in a national database accessible to state and local governments. The driver’s licenses described in the poll mirror the Real ID Act, which has sparked rebellion nationwide. Twelve states have opted out of the national ID program and more are on the way.

“The public is very reluctant to give the government carte blanche to regiment and track Americans, and this poll proves it,” said Barry Steinhardt, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Technology and Liberty Program. “Americans are worried about the costs of a national ID, and not just the costs as taxpayers, but the costs to a free society.”

According to the poll:

  • Thirty-two percent “strongly oppose” the establishment of new driver’s licenses “that will record personal information in a database and share it with other states and the federal government, while 26 percent strongly support such a policy. Including those “somewhat” supporting or opposed, the poll finds an even split of 46-47.
  • Americans were most distrustful of private-sector uses of these licenses to collect and share information. Sixty-nine percent of respondents were strongly opposed, while only 5 percent were strongly supportive. Overall, 82 percent are opposed, and 13 percent are supportive.
  • When asked directly whether they see such driver’s licenses as something “needed to fight terrorism,” or as something that “would be an invasion of privacy that will cause more harm than good,” more than twice as many (39 percent) strongly opposed the licenses than supported them (17 percent). Overall, 57 percent are opposed, and 35 percent are supportive.
  • American voters even narrowly oppose (51-45) a requirement that they show their original birth certificate when they apply for or renew a driver’s license.

“The results of this poll show why so many people are outraged over Real ID and why so many states have rejected it,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Politicians need to figure out that the American people are too smart to be fooled by these ‘quick fixes’ that turn out to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors, especially when they threaten our remaining privacy.”

The poll was financed by the ACLU and conducted by the respected Washington polling firm Belden Russonello and Stewart. The survey of 900 registered voters nationwide was conducted May 1-15, 2007. It had a sampling error of +/- 3.3 percentage points.

“Despite the government telling us to look away from the privacy threat behind the curtain, it’s clear the American tradition of distrusting an invasive government remains alive and well,” said Tim Sparapani, ACLU Senior Counsel. “Congress needs to take that message to heart and repeal Real ID.”

The poll results, including the exact questions asked and basic demographic cross-tabs, are online at:

To learn more about developments with the Real ID Act, visit:

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