by Andrew Walden
The Honolulu City Council has won release of a previously unpublished Qmark Research poll cited as showing support for rail by Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann.
In his October 29, 2009 State of Rail speech, Mayor Hannemann claimed:
"An island-wide poll taken last month of 900 citizens revealed that 60 percent support the project. Support is consistent in every City Council district, with a range of 52 percent to a high of 70 percent. And when queried if they think rail is a good investment, responses revealed that an average of 69 percent of residents, a majority in every Council district, agreed that it’s a sound investment."
The City of Honolulu paid $10,000 to have Hannemann's speech--delivered to 200 invited guests at Mission Memorial Auditorium--broadcast in prime time on KHNL, KGMB, and KFVE. Neither the cost of the poll nor the source of the funds which paid for it have been made public. Hannemann in his speech indicated the poll was "taken last month" -- September. But the Qmark report is undated and it does not indicate the dates during which the poll was conducted--standard information for any political poll. It also does not indicate for whom the poll was prepared.
In line with Hannemann's claim that "60 percent support the project" the poll's third question does indicate that 34% "strongly support" and 26% "somewhat support" rail. And counting "somewhat support", Qmark was able to find a majority even in the East Oahu, Northshore, and Windward areas which voted most heavily against the rail ballot question in the 2008 election.
In that vote, rail won with 50.6% of the vote versus 45.7% opposed. So how did Qmark move the numbers up ten months later?
Using the standard tricks of the push-poller, Qmark began its poll with questions about Oahu's "current traffic situation". The respondents were then "asked about their perceptions of Oahu's traffic situation looking ten years into the future." After these two loaded questions, they were then hit with this:
"The City and County of Honolulu with approval from the voters of Oahu is moving forward with the development of a 20-mile elevated rail transit line that will connect West Oahu with downtown Honolulu and Ala Moana Center."
The Qmark results Hannemann cited in his speech are what emerge after respondents are primed to visualize endless traffic jams, presented with rail "moving forward" as a fait accompli, and are reminded that it is approved by the voters. Poll respondents are never asked about alternatives to rail.
Asked about ridership, 45% of respondents claimed they would use rail. This includes 43% of households earning over $100K/year who are supposedly prepared to park their Mercedes'. Even more unlikely, it includes 35% from Charles Djou's East Oahu district, 29% from Ikaika Anderson's Kaneohe-Waimanalo district, and 33% from Donovan dela Cruz' Wahiawa-North Shore district--all far from any proposed rail station.
Bizarre. But those are the kind of talking-points-for-a-speech that push polls are designed to generate. Honolulu is a small town and Democrats hold most elective office. Pollsters who do not deliver the taxpayer funded stage props politicians need quickly find themselves out of work.
Good News: A small elite no longer runs Hawaii -- Bad News: Mufi thinks he can change that
Last-minute donation: Rail contractor gave to Hannemann Campaign
Updated list of Honolulu rail contractors released
2008 Election results: http://hawaii.gov/elections/results/2008/general/files/cch.pdf
Transcript State of Rail speech: http://www.honolulutransit.org/library/files/state%20of%20rail%20transit%20final.pdf