Young voters are overwhelmingly worried that the United States government is collecting and storing information about them, according to a new poll released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
"Young people understand what's at stake when the Internet is not a free and open place," said Stacy Sullivan, ACLU associate director for strategic communications.
84 percent of likely voters, age 18-39, said they find it concerning that the government is tapping into information like phone records, emails, and bank statements. And it wasn't just young people who voiced their concern: 82 percent of all likely voters polled also expressed unease towards the government's data collection.
The poll was an effort by the ACLU to understand how Americans feel about reforming or reauthorizing the Patriot Act. The bipartisan team of Global Strategy Group and G² Public Strategies conducted the poll on behalf of the ACLU.
Lawmakers are debating the controversial surveillance bill, which is set to expire on June 1, unless Congress acts. The Hill newspaper, which tracks federal legislation, declared this week that the Patriot Act is on "life support," as the Senate faces a potential stalemate on the issue.
Last week the House voted to extend many parts of the original 2001 bill, but also to end bulk collection of domestic phone records.
However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell argued in favor continuing the NSA phone record program, which gets its authority from the Patriot Act.
"This has been a very important part of our effort to defend the homeland since 9/11," McConnell said on ABC's This Week on Sunday. "We know that the terrorists overseas are trying to recruit people in our country to commit atrocities in our country."
The ACLU study found broad and bipartisan support for modifying the controversial bill.
"There's a lot of concern about what the government is doing in terms of collecting personal information," said Greg Strimple, a pollster for G² Public Strategies.
65 percent of young voters said Congress should make changes to the Patriot Act to limit government surveillance and protect Americans' privacy. Young people and men who identify as Independent are the leading force behind the push for reform, according to the poll.
Young voters also believe that if the FBI or local police departments need a warrant to search your home or property without your permission, the same should be true of your email and phone records.
"It shows how disconnected how members of Congress are from the feelings of the public," said Neema Singh Guliani, ACLU Legislative Counsel.
Geneva Sands is a Washington, D.C.-based producer/editor focused on national affairs and politics. Egg creams, Raleigh and pie are three of her favorite things.