By Eitan Arom
June 10, 2015 at 5:00 pm ET
Sen. Ted Cruz is one of the most prominent Republican backers of the USA Freedom Act.
“It protects the civil liberties of every American,” the Texas lawmaker said last week after the Senate passed the measure. “At the same time it ensures that we maintain the tools that are needed to target violent terrorists and prevent acts of terror.”
But on both counts, many Republican voters – who will determine Cruz’s fate as he heads into the presidential primaries – beg to differ.
In a recent Morning Consult poll, 37 percent of Republican voters said the new law curtailing the NSA’s spying powers will have a negative effect on national security. That’s compared to 14 percent who said it would improve security and 29 percent who said it would just maintain the status quo.
Republicans were 9 percentage points more likely than the average registered voter to predict a negative national security impact from the law.
And security is the second-most important voting issue for Republicans: 22 percent said it’s their top set of priorities when casting votes, compared with 16 percent of registered voters and 9 percent of Democrats. Economic issues are the most important for GOP voters, at 41 percent.
In addition, Republicans aren’t convinced the USA Freedom Act will keep their personal information away from prying eyes. Fewer than one in five said it would have a positive impact on protecting personal information. Twenty percent said the law will decrease individual data security, while 19 percent said it will help safeguard such info.
Among all registered voters polled, 18 percent predicted increased data security, compared with 15 percent who said protections would be weakened.
Among GOP voters and the general population, pluralities of 43 percent and 45 percent, respectively, said there would be no impact at all on personal info.
Skepticism about the effects of the law augurs poorly not only for Cruz, but also for fellow GOP presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), even though he voted against the measure, saying it didn’t go far enough to protect civil liberties.
Paul also wanted to do away with the surveillance provisions altogether, a less popular option among Republicans than extending modified versions, according to a Morning Consult poll in May. Twenty-six percent of Republicans favored allowing the provisions to lapse while 43 percent said Congress should renew them with some modifications, which is what happened under the USA Freedom Act.
Sen. Marco Rubio, however, is one GOP presidential candidate in the chamber who stands to gain from voter dissatisfaction with the law. The Florida lawmaker favored a clean reauthorization of the Patriot Act surveillance authorities and voted against the USA Freedom Act.
“Weak presidential leadership combined with a politically motivated misinformation campaign have now left the American people less safe than we’ve been at any point since the 9/11 attacks,” Rubio said in a statement on June 2, the day President Obama signed the bill into law.
Fourteen percent of Republicans favored a clean renewal of the authorities, compared with 12 percent of all registered voters, according to the May poll.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is also running for president, was the only senator who didn’t cast a vote for or against the USA Freedom Act, which the Senate passed 67-32. He was in New Hampshire that day but said on Twitter that he would’ve voted against the measure.
He said the legislation “compromises our privacy and our national security.” That puts him in the same camp as many GOP voters.
The poll was conducted from June 5 through June 8 among a national sample of 2,906 registered voters. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
Eitan Arom previously worked at Morning Consult as a reporter covering tech.