The literature on term limits has burgeoned in recent years. This paper looks at both the empirical and normative studies, exploring how the term-limit debate is confounded by both fact and value disagreements. We identify four schools of thought with respect to the desirability of term limits and conclude that, because people start from different normative perspectives, findings about term-limit effects can be interpreted in very different ways. Reviewing the literature on electoral impacts, we discovered that term limits have increased turnover most noticeably in the more professionalized legislatures. The length of term limitations and the types of legislatures that adopt them are critical explanatory variables. The implications for the internal workings of legislatures and the balance of power are less well documented by scholars, but there is a great deal of testimony from legislators and lobbyists that term limits have changed their operations in important ways.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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