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Poll: Majority want changes to Patriot Act

Poll: Majority want changes to Patriot Act
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Most of the country wants to reform the Patriot Act, according to a new poll commissioned by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The survey — which was conducted by a bipartisan pair of polling firms and released on Monday — found that 60 percent of people want to change the post-9/11 national security law, compared with 34 percent who want to preserve it as-is.

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Support for reforming the law was even stronger among young people and those who described themselves as “very liberal” or “very conservative,” highlighting political implications for the 2016 presidential season.

Independent voters also were more likely than party-affiliated Americans to support changing the law — 71 percent of independents said the Patriot Act should be modified, compared with just 22 percent who said to keep it unchanged.

“The consensus on this issue is bipartisan,” said Greg Strimple, a strategist and pollster at G² Public Strategies, a GOP consulting group that ran the poll. “This is an issue I expect you’ll see quite a bit of in the presidential primary process.”

The polling comes amid a mad dash in the Senate to either renew, change or kill off three parts of the Patriot Act, including the controversial section that the National Security Agency has used to collect millions of Americans’ phone records without a warrant. Lawmakers have to reach a solution on the issue by the end of the week — or let the Patriot Act expire — but so far consensus has been elusive.

The polling released on Monday found that 82 percent said they were at least “somewhat concerned” that the government is “collecting and storing the personal information of Americans.”

Critics of the NSA are likely to use the numbers as backing as they seek to rein in the agency in coming days.

“It shows how disconnected members of Congress are from the feelings of a lot of the public,” said Neema Singh Guliani, a lobbyist with the ACLU. The ACLU has urged Congress to let the provisions expire at the end of the month.

“What the poll results tell us is that in order to be more reflective of the public’s views on surveillance and the Patriot Act, members of Congress should support ... more aggressive reforms," she added.

Some presidential contenders have already jumped on the issue as one way to distinguish themselves from the pack.

While both Democratic hopefuls, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida MORE and Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden endorses Texas Democratic House candidate Julie Oliver Ocasio-Cortez rolls out Twitch channel to urge voting Calls grow for Democrats to ramp up spending in Texas MORE, have said Congress should reform the law, GOP contenders are split.

Most Republicans in the race have urged for the law to be renewed without change, with the exception of Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulMichigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test GOP Rep. Mike Bost tests positive for COVID-19 Top Democrats introduce resolution calling for mask mandate, testing program in Senate MORE (Ky.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzQuinnipiac poll finds Biden, Trump tied in Texas China could cut our access to critical minerals at any time — here's why we need to act The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Two weeks out, Trump attempts to rally the base MORE (Texas). Cruz backs a major reform bill that sailed through the House last week, while Paul has pledged to filibuster any “clean” extension of the law.

Monday’s survey interviewed 1,001 likely voters throughout the country from April 6-12. It has a 3-point margin of error.