Big Majorities of Utahns Favor Term Limits for Elected Officials

Utahns overwhelmingly want term limits for top elected officials in Utah.

A new survey finds 85% want term limits for offices like Governor and members of the Utah Legislature. 88% say they want term limits for Utah’s Congressional delegation.

In 2003, Utah lawmakers repealed term-limits legislation that was initially passed in 1994. That law was approved by lawmakers to head off a citizen initiative led by Merrill Cook that would have put the question on the ballot.

Technically, there are term limits for legislators. Voters get to voice their opinion at the polls every two, four or six years, depending on the office. In practice, however, most term limits are self-enforced through retirement, both in the federal or state level.

The last federal elected official from Utah to lose a re-election bid was the late U.S. Senator Bob Bennett. However, he was defeated by GOP delegates at the Republican State Convention.

Republican Rep. Chris Cannon lost the GOP primary in 2008 to Jason Chaffetz.

Gov. Olene Walker famously lost her bid for a full term when she was eliminated by delegates at the 2004 GOP convention. She assumed office after Gov. Mike Leavitt resigned to head up the Environmental Protection Agency. Gov. Jon Huntsman resigned his position to become Ambassador to China.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson retired before the 2014 election. Rep. Jim Hansen retired before the 2002 election.

Those examples are the exception rather than the rule in Utah because there’s only one ballot box defeat among them.


Republicans, who hold all of the federal offices in Utah, as well as all statewide elected positions and supermajorities in the Utah State Legislature, would very much like to see term limits for state-level elected officials. 86% of Utah Republicans say they want term limits for state officials. That number includes 68% who “strongly” favor term limits. 82% of Republicans want term limits for federal offices, but only 53% feel “strongly” about the issue.

That makes some sense because of the Republican domination in Utah. It’s hard for new blood to run for offices that are already occupied by Republicans. It usually takes a retirement to open up those opportunities. Term limits would ensure more turnover.

Democrats view term limits a little less favorably than their Republican counterparts. 85% would like to see term limits for state-level offices, with just 52% “strongly” favoring limits. 88% of Democrats want term limits on the federal level.

There’s a good reason why Democrats would be less enthusiastic about term limits. They don’t have much of a political “bench.” Democrats, who are vastly outnumbered in the Utah Legislature, want to hang on to the few seats they already have without having to worry about finding replacements every few years.

Independent voters in Utah heartily favor term limits on the federal level. 88% want term limits for members of Congress, including 70% who “strongly” are in favor. 85% of independents want term limits for state elected officials.

The survey was conducted for by Dan Jones & Associates from September 1-9, 2016 among 605 likely Utah voters. It has a margin of error +/- 3.98%.