Britons believe too many people, especially immigrants and asylum seekers, take advantage of the Human Rights Act (HRA), a poll has suggested.
Justice Secretary Jack Straw has defended the Human Rights Act
The survey for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), which dates from 2004 but has only just been published, says 57% believe the law is being exploited.
The poll of 2,000 people featured in a report which found there was widespread support for a law on human rights.
The MoJ said ministers had been working to improve understanding of the Act.
A spokesman said: "The overwhelming conclusion shows 84% of the general public agree it is important to have a law which deals with human rights in Britain.
"Since this research was undertaken, the government has undertaken a campaign to promote better understanding of the Act and to ensure that public authorities are more aware of their duties to the public under the Act."
The government commissioned the Human Rights Insight Project in 2004, but the MoJ has only now released the findings.
Lawyers and celebrities
The 1998 act, which came fully into force in 2000, includes the right to life, the right to privacy and family life and the right to freedom of religion.
It incorporates Articles two to 12 and Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights into British law.
The study, released now without publicity, suggests that British people feel values of respect, dignity, equality and fairness are very important.
But a majority said the act was being misapplied, particularly by certain groups, including refugees, lawyers and celebrities.
Overall, 40% of those questioned said the law created more problems than it solved.
The report recommends that government develop a "communications strategy" to try to win the public over.
But the document states that the research was commissioned to "stimulate discussion" and does not represent government policy.
It called for more work to correct public misunderstandings about the HRA.
Justice Secretary Jack Straw has defended the HRA and rejected Conservative calls for it to be scrapped in favour of a British Bill of Rights.