SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns overwhelmingly favor term limits for both federal and state elected officials, a new polls shows. found that 85 percent of residents support limiting the terms for governor, attorney general and the Utah Legislature, while only 12 percent were opposed.

The percentage was even higher for U.S. House members and U.S. senators, according to the Dan Jones & Associates survey of Utah voters.

The poll showed 88 percent favor term limits in federal offices, with only 10 percent opposed. Jones queried 605 likely voters Sept. 1-9. The poll has just under a 4 percent margin of error.

Utah lawmakers passed a term limits law more than 20 years ago but repealed it before it took effect.

"It's not in the legislators' interests to term themselves, and voters often think it's in theirs, but it's complicated," said BYU political science professor Adam Brown.

A wave of term limit initiatives hit state election ballots in the early 1990s, and the outcomes for states that approved them were "not very flattering," he said.

High turnover in the California Assembly, for example, led to a loss of institutional memory about why laws were passed and a lack of expertise, Brown said. It also made lawmakers more "persuadable" by outside interests, he said.

In state legislatures with term limits, the intent for greater responsiveness to voters didn't materialize as much as an unintended effect of greater reliance on advice from lobbyists, he said.

Republicans, who hold all of the federal and statewide elected offices in Utah as well as supermajorities in the Utah Legislature, strongly want to see term limits for those positions, the poll shows.

Democrats also favor term limits, though a little less enthusiastically than Republicans. Independent voters also heavily favor limiting federal and state offices.

In 2003, state lawmakers repealed a 12-year term limit for Utah House and Senate seats as well as statewide offices such as governor and attorney general that they passed in 1994. It was to take effect in 2006.

A Deseret News/KSL-TV poll then showed three-fourths of Utahns opposed the repeal.

Legislators have argued that elections amount to term limits.

While the part-time Utah House and Senate have regular turnover, it doesn't typically come through party delegates or voters kicking an incumbent out at the ballot box. It's usually the result of voluntary retirement.

Three of Utah's four U.S. House members have served less than eight years. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, has held office for nearly 14 years. All four are seeking re-election.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who was elected in 1976, is the most senior Republican in the U.S. Senate and the second-most senior overall. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, is running for a second term.

Brown wondered if Hatch's longevity is among the reasons the poll showed more Utahns favored term limits for federal offices than for state offices. Dissatisfaction with Congress also might be a factor, he said.

The late Sen. Bob Bennett was the last federal elected official in Utah to lose an election, but it came at the GOP state convention, not the voting booth. Republican delegates ousted him in favor of Lee.


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