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Sunday, May 13, 2012
Declining Unions, Growing Churches Shape the Future of Hawaii Politics
By Andrew Walden @ 11:29 PM :: 6896 Views :: Energy, Environment

by Andrew Walden

Where are the social conservatives in Hawaii? In the ranks if the Aloha State’s non-voters, and among those most distant from political and cultural power, according to a recent poll.

This is good news. It shows there is a huge reservoir of pro-life, pro-family registered non-voters and non-registered voters who can be reached through church-based voter registration drives as well as registration efforts aimed at military personnel, military families, small business owners and other identifiable conservative social layers.

Merriman River Group queried 1,162 registered voters for on-line publication Civil Beat in Hawaii on the evenings of April 15-17 and April 22, 2012. Of these, 567 were Likely Voters, 423 were registered Non-Voters, and 172 were voters who participated only in the 2008 General Election. Notably, the non-voters were the least likely to have been fooled into supporting gay marriage. Non-voters were also the least likely to support legalization of marijuana. Forty-four years after “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” became the rallying cry of counter-culture, in Hawaii counter has become establishment. The pollsters did not ask about rock and roll, but sex and drugs are more supported by likely voters, and also by the more highly ‘educated’.

Among likely voters gay marriage was opposed 40%–49%. Among registered non-voters, opposition increases to 27%-57%. Among Obama-year voters who turned out only in 2008, the margin is 43%–44%.

Among likely voters legalization of marijuana is opposed 34% – 58%. Among registered non-voters, opposition increases to 30% to 57%. Among 2008 only voters, the margin is 42%–46%.

Unlike mainland center-right states where likely voters are more likely to be conservative, in center-left Hawaii it is the opposite. The poll results show that those who are outside politics form an untapped reservoir of support for the traditional pro-life pro-family culture of Hawaii. That reservoir is even deeper when non-registered voters are considered.

This has not gone without prior notice. In the 2010 election cycle Hawaii Family Forum led church-based voter registration efforts producing 15,000 new votes for Republican House candidates who opposed HB444 gay civil unions. Pro-family Democrats challenged several primary elections and Republicans contested nearly every legislative race in the state.

Editors of the Star-Bulletin went apoplectic, editorializing against the voter registration effort—a sure sign HFF was on the right track.

In 2012 Evangelicals, Catholics and Mormon leaders are stung by legislative efforts to force gay unions into their churches and require their participation in abortion. Precisely as predicted, anti-bullying programs are a conduit for teaching homosexuality to public school children. In the face of these attacks, the effort to register even more church based voters is regaining momentum but time is limited. The deadline to register for the August 11 primaries is July 12. The deadline to register for the November 6 General Election is October 8.

There is reason to hope. Hawaii is the only state in the union where church membership is increasing. Meanwhile union membership in Hawaii plummeted 20% – a loss of 28,000 members—between 2005 and 2011

Hawaii Union Membership (BLS stats)

Year 000s of Members
2001 118
2002 120
2003 122
2004 126
2005 141
2006 139
2007 130
2008 136
2009 123
2010 111
2011 113


The growth in church attendance is concentrated in Mormon and Evangelical denominations with the highest sense of ‘religiosity.’ According to the American Church Research project, attendance at evangelical churches has soared:

  • 1990 -- 47,584
  • 2000 -- 73,026
  • 2009 -- 90,573

Counting Hawaii’s 57,135 Catholics and Hawaii’s dwindling liberal ‘mainline’ churches—now down to 20,874--ACR counts of Hawaii Church attendance run:

  • 1990 – 136,782
  • 2000 – 156,985
  • 2009 – 168,746

The numbers become even more impressive when Mormons are included. According to official 2008 LDS Church records—the most recent year available--there are 68,128 Hawaii Mormons in 132 congregations. This reflects dramatic growth:

  • 1990 -- 38,303 (3.5% of population)
  • 2003 -- 61,715
  • 2004 -- 64,608.
  • 2005 -- 65,447 (5.1% of population)
  • 2008 -- 68,128


The total is 236,874 between all denominations—up 35% from 175,085 in 1990. Not counting the liberal ‘mainline’ churches, the total is 216,000.

Presidential elections generally feature higher turnout than non-presidential elections. In the November 7, 2008 General Election 691,356 voters registered; 66% actually cast ballots. Given the longstanding and well-organized union Get Out The Vote effort, if one assumes that 80% of union members turned out at the polls and 80% of them voted Democrat, the following numbers result:

  • Hawaii Registered voters = 691,356
  • 2008 General Election Turn out = 456,064 votes cast = 66%
  • 80% of 2008 Union membership = 108,800 = 24%
  • Non-union voters = 347,264 = 76%

If 80% of union voters are turning out to vote and then voting 80% Democrat, about 87,040 Democrat votes were turned out by unions (as well as 21,760 GOP votes). Using round numbers, of the remaining approx. 347,000 voters, 59% of them must vote GOP for a Republican to be elected. Only 41% of the non-union voters must vote Democrat for a Democrat win.

Notably these 2008 numbers are much more favorable than numbers based on the 2006 election and the near-peak 2006 union membership.  In 2006, Republicans had to score 64% of non-union voters to win an election.

It gets better. Because union membership dropped sharply between 2009 and 2011 as a direct result of the economic policies implemented by the politicians unions put into office. The result is that thousands of voters are free from union control. Republicans face the most favorable electorate in recent Hawaii history. Compare Presidential year turnout with the 2011 union membership numbers to generate the closest model of the upcoming 2012 election:

  • Hawaii Registered voters = 691,356
  • 2008 General Election Turn out = 456,064 votes cast = 66%
  • 80% of 2011 Union membership = 90,400 = 20%
  • Non-union voters = 365,664 = 80%

If 80% of union voters are turning out to vote and then voting 80% Democrat, about 72,320 (nearly 15,000 fewer than 2008) Democrat votes were turned out by unions as well as 14,464 GOP votes. Using round numbers, of the remaining approx. 347,000 voters, only 55% of them must vote GOP for a Republican to be elected. In 2012 a solid 45% of the non-union voters must vote Democrat for a Democrat win.

What Republicans needed from Hawaii’s non-union voters:

  • 2006 -- 64%
  • 2008 – 59%
  • 2012 – 55%

These numbers also explain the defeat of old-boy-pro-development-union-jobs candidate Mufi Hannemann in the 2010 Democratic Primary and the use of an overtly anti-Christian political campaign by Neil Abercrombie to trounce Duke Aiona in the general election. As union membership declines, Hawaii Democrats have to rely on the ideology of political correctness and the politics of Christian bashing to win elections. They focus on alienating the remainder of the electorate from the church-based voters. Civil Beat’s Chad Blair complained in October, 2010: “Hawaii elections have not been totally God-free.” In a January 2011 brushback to the atheist upsurge, Volcanic Ash Columnist David Shapiro wrote: “Hawaii Democrats Blatantly target Christianity for obliteration.” He pointed out: “… efforts of some Democrats to obliterate religion from public life blatantly targets Christianity over other faiths — a bias that will ultimately come back to bite the Democrats.”

Will this bias come back to bite Abercrombie and the gay-atheists? Is it over the line to force churches to conduct gay union ceremonies? Is it acceptable to force participation in abortion? Talk is cheap. These things are only unacceptable if pastors step up and outdo their 2010 efforts to register their church members to vote. Acquiescence is acceptance.

If 80% of Hawaii’s 216,000 regular church-goers vote and 80% of them vote for pro-life pro-family Republican candidates that would yield 138,240 Republican votes and 34,560 Democratic. Combining these with the union voter totals produces:

  • Churches – 138,240 R –  34,560 D
  • Unions      -- 14,464 R –  72,320 D
  • TOTAL      --152,704 R--106,880 D

If the total universe of voters remained constant (it would likely grow due to a massive influx of conservative voters from churches, veterans organizations and small business groups), the unorganized voters would number 196,480 based on the 2008 voter participation figures. If Hawaii’s lowest-in-the-nation 49% eligible voter participation increased to the 2008 US average of 62.2% the result would be an additional 126,880 voters yielding 323,360 unorganized voters. To overcome the huge numerical advantage of church voters over union voters, Democrats would have to win the unorganized electorate 57% to 43% to win an election. If voter participation did not increase, Democrats would be required to win unorganized voters 62% to 38% to win an election.

Either way, Hawaii would then be a center-right state.





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