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Tinkering Toward a National Identification System: An Experiment on Policy Attitudes



The REAL ID Act was passed in 2005 by Congress in part to address preoccupations with breaches to homeland security after the 9/11 attacks. The Act requires states to introduce more standardized state driver's licenses by 2008. The goal of this paper is to understand citizens' opinions in the area of personal identification and how these opinions may be shaped by alternative framings of the issue. Using survey responses from Michigan residents provides evidence of the following: (i) a majority of the Michigan public supports the current reforms in identification; however, a majority is not willing to incur larger costs or delays; (ii) framing the issue around immigration can generate as much support as framing the issue around terrorism; however, a more balanced discourse can dampen support; and (iii) partisan and ideological leanings moderately structure support for identification reforms. Overall the findings suggest a comfortable margin for reforms around personal identification if public safeguarding interpretations can predominate.