A legislative-referred proposed constitutional amendment is opposed more than two-to-one by voters, in large part due to a possible change in the state’s term limits law.

The latest Talk Business-Hendrix College Poll of more than 1,000 likely voters shows that 57% oppose the measure that would curtail gifts and contributions to legislators but allow them to serve up to 16 years in the General Assembly. Only 25% support the proposal and 18% are undecided.

“The term limits addition to this proposal appears to be a deal-breaker for voters as our previous polling has shown,” said Talk Business & Politics executive editor Roby Brock. “Without term limits, ethics reform seems to have widespread support, but that’s not the case with this combo amendment.”

The 2013 General Assembly referred three proposals for voter consideration in the 2014 general election. The ethics-term limits proposal, called “The Arkansas Elected Officials Ethics, Transparency, and Financial Reform Amendment of 2014,” will be on the November ballot.

Q. The legislature also referred a constitutional amendment to voters in 2014. It would ban gifts, meals, and trips provide to legislators by lobbyists except in limited circumstances and would also ban corporations from making contributions to Arkansas state candidates. In addition, it would extend term limits to allow legislators to serve up to 16 years and would create a commission to evaluate whether government officials’ salaries should be increased. If the election were held today, would you vote to approve or disapprove such a constitutional amendment?

25% Approve
57% Disapprove
18% Don’t Know

Currently, a gift or expense to a legislator by a lobbyist must be disclosed if the dollar amount exceeds $50. There is no limit on the amount of money that can be spent by a lobbyist, but it must be fully disclosed on reporting forms to the state.

Lawmakers are also allowed to serve six years (three terms) in the Arkansas House and two terms (eight years) in the Arkansas State Senate under the state’s current term limits law. The proposal would allow for a maximum of 16 years to be served by a legislator regardless of which chamber.

When Talk Business-Hendrix College surveyed this question in October 2013, the poll had similar voter disapproval. Roughly 32% supported the measure then, while 50% disapproved.

In 2012 when a proposal to limit gift giving and strengthen ethics rules was being considered, a Talk Business-Hendrix College Poll showed 69% supported the concept while 18% opposed.

ANALYSIS
Dr. Jay Barth, professor of political science at Hendrix College, helped craft and analyze the latest poll. He offered this analysis of the poll results.

Ethics
Reaffirming our results from our October 2013 survey, Arkansas voters remain opposed to the measure sent by the General Assembly that would do several things: ban gifts, meals, and trips provide to legislators by lobbyists except in limited circumstances, ban corporations from making contributions to Arkansas state candidates, extend term limits to allow legislators to serve up to 16 years, and create a commission to evaluate whether government officials’ salaries should be increased.

The proposal is opposed by a comfortable majority of voters (57% oppose and only 25% supporting). The opposition is consistent across political, geographical, and demographic groups with the minor exception that Democratic voters are marginally less opposed (the opposition rate goes down to 49% among Democrats, among whom there is 33% support).

More of Barth’s analysis on this topic and the U.S. Senate and Arkansas Governor’s race results can be viewed at the bottom of this post.

METHODOLOGY
This survey was conducted by Talk Business Research and Hendrix College on Thursday and Friday, April 3-4, 2014. The poll, which has a margin of error of +/-3%, was completed using IVR survey technology among 1,068 Arkansas frequent voters statewide.

Approximately 9% of the voters in our sample were contacted via cell phone with live callers. This is in response to the increased reliance by voters on cell phones. Additionally, we applied our standard weighting to the poll results based on age, gender, and Congressional district.

All media outlets are welcome to reprint, reproduce, or rebroadcast information from this poll with proper attribution to Talk Business and Hendrix College.

For interviews, contact Talk Business executive editor Roby Brock by email at roby@talkbusiness.net or Dr. Jay Barth by email at barth@hendrix.edu.

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Talk Business Staff