Tuesday, May 11, 2010

1st District Survey Shows Majority Favor Rail; Support Likely Higher if 2nd District Included

Civil Beat, the new subscription online news and opinion website, published the results of a public opinion poll today showing a majority of respondents (51.6%) either strongly approve of the Honolulu rail project (27.7%) or somewhat approve of it (23.9%). So far, so good, but it gets better:

The poll was conducted only in Hawaii's 1st Congressional District (shaded at left) and did not sample residents in some of the neighborhoods at the west end of the rail line in the 2nd District. As Civil Beat editor John Temple wrote, “Those areas would be expected to show greater support, because people there would experience a direct benefit from the project.

Brand-new Civil Beat is still shaking out some of the start-up problems that most new enterprises experience. Temple wrote in the second paragraph of the poll article that in 2008 “…Oahu voters decided 53-47 (%) to add a 0.5-percent surcharge to the General Excise Tax to pay for the project.”

That’s not what was on the ballot, of course; voters approved the steel-on-steel technology in 2008. The State Legislature in 2005 authorized the counties to increase the GET for mass transit projects, and the Honolulu City Council did so.

Unfounded Speculation

As a paid subscriber, we can read more of the Civil Beat site than the casual visitor and found something deeper in the article that seems completely unsupportable.

Matt Fitch, executive director of the polling company that conducted the automated telephone survey, said this about the rail project’s slim majority support:

Their project is in jeopardy and they have to make a better case for it. They don’t necessarily have the strongest supporter of the project heading to Congress in May,” apparently feeling comfortable in calling the special Congressional election 11 days early in favor of Charles Djou, who represents an east Oahu City Council district (#4).

But as editor Temple noted, the majority support for rail was likely understated in the survey since it didn’t include neighborhoods on the ewa plain in the 2nd Congressional District. Beyond that, the City-sponsored QMark opinion survey of residents throughout the island last fall found majority support for rail in all Council districts (at right), including Djou’s!

Confirming the Trend

Opinion surveys are big targets in political life, of course, and Civil Beat’s is no exception. Saying a project that enjoys majority support is “in jeopardy” certainly seems odd, but what the poll does confirm is continuing public support for rail. Pro-rail majorities were recorded in the November 2008 vote, the QMark survey and in this latest poll by Civil Beat.

It’s time to move on and complete the Final Environmental Impact Statement, submit it to the governor and have it accepted so the project can break ground. The sooner all that happens, the sooner travel mobility will be restored in the urban corridor, giving commuters a travel option that completely avoids traffic congestion.
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2:45 pm Update: Civil Beat editor John Temple and I had a cordial exchange in the paid-only section of his website that's worth mentioning here. He questioned why I would write that Matt Fitch's comment that rail "is in jeopardy" is "completely unsupportable." I answered that Mr. Fitch's assertion makes no sense; rail enjoys majority support, and the opposition managed to total only 43.8% in Mr. Fitch's poll. I ended my latest post at Civil Beat: "Mr. Fitch might well have concluded that despite ongoing and strenuous efforts to derail the project over several years, the opposition has failed to crack the majority's support. I nominate that fact as the poll's major finding."

1 comment:

Shulie said...

On the one hand, since CD1 includes Hawai'i Kai, where only 44% voted yes in 2008, the CD1 poll understates island-wide rail support. However, whatever the support percentage the Waianae area, the turnout there was abysmal; I wouldn't make too much about that "You didn't include CD2 argument." However, Waipahu-Pearl City is the heart of rail support, with 66% voting yes in 2008, and that is what counts.