Poll: Three-quarters support term limits
January 18th, 2013
09:55 AM ET
2 years ago

Poll: Three-quarters support term limits

(CNN) – While voters re-elected most of the incumbent members of the U.S House and Senate –there are 94 freshmen in the 113th Congress– three-quarters of Americans say they support term limits for elected officials in both chambers.

If given the opportunity, 75% would vote for term limits, while 21% would vote against the idea and 5% say they have no opinion, according to the Gallup survey released Friday.

Such a proposal has been backed by elected officials before, especially on the campaign trail.

In 2009, a small group of Republican senators proposed a constitutional amendment to limit how long a person may serve in office. Led by then-Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina (he resigned from his seat at the beginning of this year), the group called for a cap of 12 years for senators and six years for members of the House. The measure did not get the required two-thirds approval from the House and Senate to pass and be sent on to the states to begin the ratification process.

A similar measure –the Citizen Legislature Act– was put forward as part of the original Contract with America proposed by Republicans before they won control of Congress in 1994. It also failed to get the needed support.

According to the Gallup poll, a strong majority in both parties support term limits, though Republicans are more inclined to back the idea. Eighty-two percent of those in the GOP are in favor of term limits, while 65% of Democrats feel the same way. The notion also has strong support–at least 73%–across all age groups.

The survey also shows that more than six in 10 Americans would get rid of the Electoral College, the constitutional structure in place for electing presidents. While tweaks have been made to the rules over the years, repeated attempts to abolish the Electoral College have failed.

Gallup interviewed 1,013 adults by telephone from January 8 through January 9. The sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points.

– CNN Political Director Mark Preston contributed to this report.


Filed under: Congress • Polls
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Anthony

    They already have term limits....... they're called ELECTIONS!! If a person keeps getting elected into office, then obviously people in that district love the job they are doing. If that's the case, why should they be forced out of office???

    January 18, 2013 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  2. much thunder.little rain

    just look at the senate...old ,fat,cant get along because they are afraid to make a big donor mad...2 terms ..if you cant get get things done ..to bad..

    January 18, 2013 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  3. don in albuquerque

    Yeah! Term limits. That is an idea whose time has come.

    January 18, 2013 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  4. marita

    We MUST have Term Limits! That would be the first step into the right direction!! – @Marita.

    January 18, 2013 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  5. bystander

    Yes to revised term limits...No to Electoral College which usefullness disappeared with riding horseback town to town. Term limiting would bring fresher ideas, varying stances and give useless lobbyists ulcers.

    January 18, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  6. Jon

    Just another way the government can fail to give the public what it wants. Yay.

    January 18, 2013 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  7. bonjourno

    term limits don't determin what the outcome of the worlds fate is, mans actions and GOD do!

    January 18, 2013 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  8. Sniffit

    Major departure from the intent of the founding fathers in the Constitution. You want term limits? Don't vote for that person again after they've been in office X times. It's that simple.

    Term limits that the founding fathers specifically rejected actually constitute a limitation of voting rights because it limits the options and choices available. If you've got a problem with the quality of the people representing you, such that you don't feel they should be in office for "too long," then stop voting for low-quality pandering jackholes. If you've got a problem with lobbyists and special interests and campaign donor influence, then support and demand, oudly and aggressively, the kind of massive lobbying and campaign finance reforms we really need and stop electing people who will block it. If your representative is god's gift to your district though, you as a voter shouldn't be limited in how many times you send him or her to DC to do your business. The choice should remain yours as a voter as it does now, not written in stone...and this is particularly true in less populous and rural areas that have a smaller talent pool to pick from. That is why there are no term limits for them in the Constitution...it empowers you as a voter. This demand for congessional term limits is myopic, forest for the trees type reactionary stuff.

    January 18, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  9. Stephen

    The only way this would happen is for Congress to vote for it. Congresspeople almost always put their reelection prospects ahead of the good of the country. Though they may be grandfathered in, it would apply to them if they leave Congress and try to come back. Does anyone truly expect Congress to vote on something that would at least potentially stop them from being reelected?

    January 18, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  10. jpmichigan

    We definitely need term limits, just like various states had voters decided to do. Having them BUY their elections , and then remain their until death is apprehensible. New ideas are needed more frequently, out with the old and in with the new. Get rid of the electoral college, it to is out dated. Popular votes are the peoples choices. # terms for each , senate and the house, and make it retroactive, starting with 2010.

    January 18, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  11. Fair is Fair

    Anthony

    They already have term limits....... they're called ELECTIONS!! If a person keeps getting elected into office, then obviously people in that district love the job they are doing. If that's the case, why should they be forced out of office???
    ------
    There's ONE reason people get re-elected – name recognition. You have to understand that the vast majority of the electorate is woefully uninformed. But if they see a name on the ballot that they happen to be familiar with, they tend to check that box.

    How else do you explain a 12% approval rating yet an 80% election of incumbents?

    January 18, 2013 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  12. Sniffit

    "That is why there are no term limits for them in the Constitution...it empowers you as a voter."

    And, I would add, it also places the burden and responsibility of all of those choices I described on the voter. Term limits won't earn you better representatives. Responsible, thoughtful, mature voting decisions and electoral systems will. Amurikans need to step up to that. If that's too much to ask, then the founding fathers were some pretty seriously deluded meatheads to be believing in human society's right and ability to self-govern in the first place.

    January 18, 2013 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  13. rs

    I generally support term limits- at this point I wish we had the ability to cast a "no confidence" vote so we could trash the House and dump the idiots in the TEA Party for their complete inaction and insubordination.

    January 18, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  14. Mr. Moderate

    @Anthony while I agree with you in theory, I think we have seen how those in power manipulate the system to ensure the stay in power. The percentage of elections in this country that are uncontested is staggering and the elected officials throw up all kinds of roadblocks for potential candidates. I would call term limits a necessary evil and in keeping with the intent of the founding fathers concept of a citizen legislator.

    We also need to implement non-partisan redistricting and non-partisan elections to reduce the influence of the two political parties and their corporate overlords.

    January 18, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  15. Jesus Christ Superstar

    Actually, term limits for Congress is unconstitutional, as it violates our right to freedom of speech by election the officials we want, not what the who the government tells us to vote for. Term limit laws are allowed to be passed for state reps, but not for the House of Reps or the Senate.

    January 18, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  16. Gurgyl

    Some people get sold out to MONEY–so we need to have term-limits. Period.

    January 18, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  17. plain&simple

    Sometimes you need continuity and consistency to get things done. In and out revolving door for no reason other than to make you feel better is not the answer! Voting objectively and staying informed is our responsibility. In this age of instant gratification the answer in politics is building policy through relationship. Just look at Joe Biden.

    January 18, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  18. Bill Martin

    If term limits are OK for the President, they are certainly OK for members of Congress.

    January 18, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  19. Jesus Christ Superstar

    Bill Martin
    If term limits are OK for the President, they are certainly OK for members of Congress.

    It should be, but it isn't. Since the office of the President has a specific Amendment placing 2 term limits on him. Since Congress doesn't have this Amendment, they cannot be limited because it technically will violate our freedom of speech. But if they were to make an AMENDMENT to the Constitution, then they could have it.

    January 18, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  20. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    have mixed feelings about this. There are some who serve in Congress who do a great job for their district and state and country. These people should stay as long as they work well. There are others that are there just to have a title and make money for themselves and staff. It is kind of hard to really figure out how to make the term limits work.

    It is too bad we can do what was done in the Red Mars trilogy - everyone had a term of service in the legislature at the end of the series like people have with jury duty. It makes some sense given that this is supposed to be a government of the people and for the people.

    'd like people who don't have money; meaning lots of money to be the only ones in Congress. Maybe a bit of means testing that would reduce the amount of wealthy people there in Congress. That might make it a bit more representative of the country. There is too much money in politics now. This might reduce it a bit.

    January 18, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  21. Sniffit

    "If term limits are OK for the President, they are certainly OK for members of Congress."

    You're comparing two fundamentally different positions with fundamentally different roles, purposes, powers, etc...apples and diapers.

    January 18, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  22. Lynda/Minnesota

    "The survey also shows that more than six in 10 Americans would get rid of the Electoral College, the constitutional structure in place for electing presidents."

    Perhaps these folks aren't thinking through the process of eliminating the Electoral College? One assumes they are Red States folks who see a large portion of Red on the map and haven't yet understood that the population within Blue states would always surpass the Red State popular vote masses ... thereby giving Democrats a sound presidential victory year after year. Kinda how Gallup polling generalizes its stats. Poll enough Red States and skew the results to promote an agenda that doesn't actually support the majority.

    January 18, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  23. Fair is Fair

    Bill Martin

    If term limits are OK for the President, they are certainly OK for members of Congress.
    ----–
    NO, it's NOT.

    We have THREE branches of government. The executive branch (President) appoints justices to the SCOTUS (judicial). Term limits for the executive branch were instituted to prevent one President from "stacking" the court and upsetting the checks and balances – and wisely so.

    January 18, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  24. Randy, San Francisco

    Bad idea. Term limits have not made for good government in California. Newly elected politiicans have good intentions but little legislative experience. By the time they acquire the experience, knowledge and skills to be good legislators, they are termed out of office. Since they are in office for such a short period of time, they see no need for compromise or deal making which is what polticis is all about.

    January 18, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  25. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair wrote:

    If term limits are OK for the President, they are certainly OK for members of Congress.
    --–
    NO, it's NOT.

    We have THREE branches of government. The executive branch (President) appoints justices to the SCOTUS (judicial). Term limits for the executive branch were instituted to prevent one President from "stacking" the court and upsetting the checks and balances – and wisely so.
    =================================================
    Think before you speak. Your argument is full of your typical holes. You make it sound as if the POTUS simply appoints people directly to the court. Appointments must first get approved by Congress. So, if the same people stay in the Congress for decades at a time, wouldn't they be able to stack the court just like as you say a POTUS could?

    January 18, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
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