COLUMBUS - A poll released yesterday showed most Ohioans do not want to change course on legislative term limits even as the state's top party leaders have pondered taking the issue back to voters.
"The public is distrustful of government and politicians," said John Green, director of the University of Akron's Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics. "Therefore, the idea of term limits appeals to Ohioans. Anyone who wants to repeal term limits would find no hope in our numbers."
The institute's poll of 1,086 Ohio adults showed the public is more likely to support changes in the state's inherently partisan practice of redrawing legislative districts, even though 70 percent of voters rejected redistricting reform two years ago. The poll has a margin of error of 3 percent.
The poll suggests Ohioans like the idea of a divided government with a Democratic governor and Republican-controlled General Assembly.
While support for current term limits of eight consecutive years in the House and Senate appears to have weakened somewhat from a similar poll in 2005, 61.5 percent said they want to maintain the status quo. Nearly half of those polled said they believed term limits have produced good government and brought fresh ideas.
Just 16.2 percent supported expanding the number of years from 8 to 12, the idea generally favored by Bob Bennett and Chris Redfern, respective chairmen of the Ohio Republican and Democratic parties. Slightly more people, 17.3 percent, support a total repeal of term limits that were first approved by voters in 1992 and swept out nearly half of the General Assembly with the first wave at the end of 2000.
Critics of term limits have argued that it has led to a less-experienced legislature and has helped to polarize extremes between and within parties.
"Most Ohioans, when given the question in its simplest terms, will gravitate toward eight-year terms versus a 12-year limit," said Mr. Redfern, who said the party is not actively pursuing a term-limit ballot issue.
"With the cynicism toward politics and politicians, Republicans and Democrats need to foster better relations and an understanding of extending term limits," he said. "This is done person to person, voter to voter."
Ohio Republican Party spokesman John McClelland did not return calls.
So far, the legislative response has been cool to the idea of putting a question on the ballot to lengthen term limits. House Speaker Jon Husted (R., Kettering) has said he doesn't believe voters would approve it.
House Republicans have instead been more interested in pursuing reforms in how the state redraws 99 state House districts and 33 Senate districts to reflect population shifts every 10 years.
The process is controlled by a five-member panel consisting of the governor, secretary of state, auditor, and a legislator each from the Republican and Democratic parties.
Republicans dominated the panel 4-1 in 2001, but Democratic victories in November suggest the pendulum could swing the other direction to 3-2 Democratic control if current incumbents are re-elected in 2010.
The poll showed 45.5 percent of voters prefer a panel of nonpartisan experts while 36.8 percent prefer a bipartisan panel. Just 11.1 percent prefer the current system.
The same poll also confirmed what others have shown, that Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani have the inside track in Ohio for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations, respectively, with a year to go before the state's primary election.
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