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By Miranda Blue August 30, 2007

The ruling was unpopular, but some polls unreliable

His full statement: "In state after state, polls make clear that the American public understands the Kelo ruling is a disaster: 82 percent of Ohioans oppose using eminent domain to take property for economic development, 91 percent of Minnesotans, 92 percent of Kansans, 95 percent of Coloradans, and 86 percent of Missourians. The American public has spoken with one voice, and they're saying that this is not right."

McCain is correct that the ruling in Kelo vs. New London, Conn. , a 2005 Supreme Court decision allowing local governments to take land from property owners for the purpose of economic development, is unpopular in the United States. But some of the numbers he uses to illustrate his point are unreliable and inflated.

McCain's numbers are gleaned from a list put together by the Castle Coalition, an activist group launched to fight eminent domain seizures in the wake of the Kelo decision.

Of the numbers he cites, only the Ohio figure comes from a scientific and disinterested poll. The rest of the numbers are from surveys commissioned by interest groups, or from unscientific polls conducted by local news organizations on their Web sites.

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McCain did not ignore more reliable polls, he just didn't have them. There has been little, if any, national polling on eminent domain since the Kelo decision. A Gallup poll conducted immediately after the Kelo decision found that the ruling contributed to a plunge in Americans' approval of the Supreme Court.

And in 2006, 12 states considered ballot initiatives on legislation limiting eminent domain power. Ten of those measures became law, most with more than 60 percent of the vote: Louisiana (55%), Nevada (63%), Arizona (65%), Oregon (67%), North Dakota (68%), Florida (69%), Michigan (80%), Georgia (83%), New Hampshire (86%) and South Carolina (86%).

UPDATE: Previously we reported that no ballot initiative passed by more than 68 percent of the vote. We were wrong. Five of them did. See the numbers above.


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