The Polls Are In

Americans Overwhelmingly Oppose Use of Eminent Domain for Private Gain

Tax-hungry bureaucrats and land-hungry developers generally support eminent domain for private commercial development. That’s no surprise. After all, when cities can take any apartment building and replace it with luxury condominiums, or condemn any corner store and replace it with a Wal-Mart, using eminent domain is much easier than buying property from willing owners.

Ask pretty much anyone else, though, and there’s clear consensus. Americans across the nation from all walks of life-regardless of their religious or ethnic background, political affiliation or geographic location-say the use of eminent domain for private gain is wrong. There is near universal agreement that taking private property should not be taken just so someone else can make more money-regardless.

The following polls all reflect this sentiment. Since the Kelo v. City of New London decision, polls all across the country have reflected the fact that Americans find the landmark-and now infamous-Supreme Court decision just plain wrong:

Constitutional Attitudes Survey
In 2009, Knowledge Networks conducted a survey on behalf of Harvard University and Columbia University to assess people’s attitudes on constitutional issues.  Question 215 in the survey asked: “Governments sometimes use the power of eminent domain to acquire a person’s property at a fair market price for other uses.  Recently, a local government transferred someone’s property to private developers whose commercial projects could benefit the local economy.  Do you think the local government should be able to use eminent domain for this purpose or not?”  An overwhelming 83.5% of respondents said “no,” the government should not be allowed to use eminent domain for economic development.


New Jersey Association of Realtors Smart Growth Survey
In December 2008, the New Jersey Association of Realtors conducted a telephone survey of 814 registered voters in the state, questioning them about various political issues. The voters surveyed were asked one of two questions about whether they favored or opposed the use of eminent domain to force homeowners to sell their homes to the government to build businesses for economic development. One of the questions mentioned compensation for “fair market value” while the other did not.  Nearly 83% of respondents opposed the use of eminent domain for economic development and nearly 77% opposed eminent domain for economic development even with the inclusion of “fair market value” compensation in the question. 


Associated Press-National Constitution Center Poll
In an August 2008 poll with questions about various constitutional issues, 87% of respondents said government shouldn’t have the power of eminent domain for redevelopment and 60% said they were opposed to the use of eminent domain for redevelopment even with fair market price for the property seized.  75% of those surveyed opposed government taking private property and handing it over to a developer, and 88% of respondents said property rights are just as important as freedom of speech and religion.


Eminent Domain Reform Polling in Ohio
Among 1,122 Ohio voters polled by the Quinnipiac Polling Institute, 78% favored setting limits on government use of eminent domain and 82% opposed using eminent domain to take property for economic development.


Eminent Domain Reform Polling in Yolo County California
79% of Yolo County, Calif., citizens polled say they “strongly disagree” with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London.


Eminent Domain Reform Polling in Minnesota
91% of Minnesotans surveyed oppose eminent domain for private development.

Source: Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association, February 2006

Americans for Prosperity
Among 400 registered Kansas voters, 92% say they oppose the increased use of eminent domain for private interests, according to a poll conducted by Cole Hargraves and Associates and commissioned by Americans for Prosperity.

Source: Americans for Prosperity, Public Opinion Poll on Eminent Domain, February 2006. | March 2006
93% of respondents oppose the government’s ability to seize homes for private economic development that will produce jobs and tax revenue.

Source: “Should local governments be able to seize homes for private economic development that will produce jobs and tax revenue?”, March 2006.

CBS News (Denver, Colorado) | February 2006
95% of Colorado citizens oppose eminent domain for retail development
(Source: “Poll: Should local governments exercise eminent domain for retail development?” CBS News Denver, Feb. 24, 2006.)


St. Louis Business Journal | January 2006
86% of Missouri voters overwhelmingly favor more restrictions on eminent domain.

Source: “Survey question: Should the use of eminent domain be more restricted?” St. Louis Business Journal, Jan. 9, 2005.

Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc. | October 2005
In a poll of 625 registered Florida voters, 89 percent said they supported having the state legislature adopt “increased protections for property owners.” The opposition to the Kelo decision was nearly uniform across party lines, with 74 percent of Democrats, 75 percent of Republicans and 72 percent of independent voters disagreeing with the ruling.

Source: “Florida voters favor eminent domain restrictions,” Jacksonville Business Journal, November 8, 2005.

Monmouth University/Gannett NJ Poll | October 5, 2005
90% of New Jerseyans say it’s not ok to take low value homes to build a shopping center, and 86% believe it’s wrong to take low value homes for higher value homes. 76% feel private developers benefit more than the local community when eminent domain is used.

Official Poll Results

American Survey | July 14-17, 2005
An American Survey of 800 registered voters nationwide shows 68% favoring legislative limits on the government’s ability to take private property away from owners, with 62% of Democrats, 74% of independents and 70% of Republicans supporting such limits.

Source: Gary J. Andres, “The Kelo backlash,” The Washington Times, August 29, 2005.

Retail Traffic | August 2005
Poll of readers shows an overwhelming majority oppose the Supreme Court ruling that states can employ eminent domain for private developments.
(Source: David Bodamer, “Eminently unfair,” Retail Traffic, August 2005, at 10.)

Decatur Daily | August 8, 2005
Readers: Eminent domain law isn’t strong enough?

A new Alabama law does not adequately protect property owners from government seizures, according to most of the 230 readers who answered a poll at

Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll
“In the wake of court’s eminent domain decision, Americans overall cite ‘private-property rights’ as the current legal issue they care most about, topping parental notification for minors, abortions or state right-to-die laws.”
(John Harwood, “Poll Shows Division on Court Pick,” Wall Street Journal, July 15, 2005)

University of New Hampshire Poll
“And while New Hampshire may be divided over many issues concerning the Supreme Court, they are nearly unanimous in their opposition to the effect of the Kelo decision – 93 percent say they oppose the taking of private property for economic development reasons, only 4 percent favor this use of eminent domain, and 3 percent are unsure.”

MSNBC poll
Should cities be allowed to seize homes and buildings for private projects as long as they benefit the public good?

CNN poll
Should local governments should be able to seize homes and businesses?

Christian Science Monitor Poll
Should the government be allowed to seize private property and turn it over to developers?

Augusta Chronicle
Do you agree with the Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday on eminent domain?
Should local governments be able to seize homes for private economic development that will produce jobs and tax revenue?
Should local governments be allowed to use eminent domain for private economic development?