POLITICS
04/03/2017 04:49 pm ET Updated Apr 03, 2017

Even Trump Voters Hate This Bill He Just Signed

The GOP measure erasing broadband privacy protections is even more unpopular than the party’s failed plan to repeal Obamacare.

WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump signed a bill on Monday that repeals rules that would have banned telecom and cable companies from sharing customers’ personal information, including web browsing history, without their consent. 

But the vast majority of Americans—including Trump supporters—don’t think internet service providers should be allowed to share customers’ sensitive data without their permission at all, according to a HuffPost/YouGov survey published Monday. Prior to the president signing the bill into law, nearly three-fourths of Republicans and Democrats said they wanted him to veto it. 

“That allowing your [internet service provider] to share your most sensitive personal data is wildly unpopular across the political spectrum is no shock.” said Gigi Sohn, who previously served as counselor to former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler. ”Last year, the FCC gave Americans the tools to protect the privacy of their data, but congressional Republicans simply took those tools away,” she added.

Republicans pushed through the resolution last month that overturns Obama administration rules banning internet service providers, or ISPs, from sharing or selling “sensitive” data, like web browsing history and Social Security numbers, without customers’ explicit permission. Companies also had to inform customers and law enforcement if a problematic data breach occurred. (The rules had not yet gone into effect.) Lawmakers used the Congressional Review Act, which bars agencies from writing a “substantially” similar rule after the original one has been overturned.

The law is a win for ISPs that have argued it’s not fair for them to be subject to burdensome regulations that rivals in the giant online advertising industry, including Facebook and Google, don’t have to follow. In turn, Republicans sought to convince the public that the Obama administration rules were unnecessary and an example of government overreach. (Verizon is the parent company of The Huffington Post.)

Trump’s FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, called the Obama-era privacy rules “flawed” on Monday and said they “were designed to benefit one group of favored companies, not online consumers.” 

But just 6 percent of Americans think ISPs should be allowed to share such “sensitive” data without permission, and 83 percent oppose the concept, according to the HuffPost/YouGov poll. The objection crosses party lines, with more than 80 percent of Democrats, Republicans, and independents all saying ISPs shouldn’t be allowed to share customers’ browsing history and other personal information without permission.

Polarization being what it is, it’s rare for any political issue to face such an overwhelming rejection. For comparison, the deeply unpopular GOP health care bill topped out at just 52 percent opposition in HuffPost/YouGov’s polling, even after its demise.

Jon Leibowitz, a former chair of the Federal Trade Commission who leads the the 21st Century Privacy Coalition, a telecom-backed group that opposes the Obama administration rules, told CNN that concerns about the bill’s effects on privacy are overblown. He dismissed complaints as “hyper-partisan hyperbole.”

But even identifying the bill as a GOP proposal isn’t enough to win it intra-party support. Told that Republicans in Congress passed a bill to overturn the regulations that would ban the sharing of customers’ information, 72 percent of both Republicans and Democrats say the privacy rules should go into effect, with just 15 percent in each party believing the rules should be overturned.

Seventy-four percent of the public—including three-quarters of Republicans—said that Trump should veto the bill, with just 11 percent advocating for him to sign it.

“Apparently, the Trump administration and its allies in Congress value privacy for themselves over the privacy of the Americans who put them in office,” former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, wrote in a New York Times op-ed last week. “What is good business for powerful cable and phone companies is just tough luck for the rest of us.”

Use the widget below to further explore the results of HuffPost/YouGov’s survey,using the menu at the top to select survey questions and the buttons at the bottom to filter the data by subgroups:

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted March 31 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls.You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

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