Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Rail’s Majority Grows When Economy Is the Issue

As predicted when the QMark poll was released last week showing a 57-40 percent split in support of Honolulu rail, the best the opposition can do is attack the QMark messenger and the concept of public opinion polling itself.

Opponents insist it isn’t possible to know what all of Oahu is thinking by polling only 900 people, thereby ignoring decades of science behind opinion surveys.

QMark’s Barbara Ankersmit spoke with Civil Beat about how the poll was conducted to arrive at the 57-40 support totals. She said that result was derived from the first question in the poll: “Would you say you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose the development of the rail transit system that I have just described.” She said the question was asked without any “positioning."

“That is the fair way to do it,” Ankersmit told Civil Beat. “We got the numbers (demonstrating) support before we showed any benefits. Because that first question is totally unbiased and we had not read arguments one way or the other, that was how we determined support.”

It’s the Economy, ------

Pollsters then drilled deeper to determine the participants’ attitudes regarding specific issues. Quoting from the survey report posted online at the City’s rail website, “…respondents were presented with the idea that the rail transit project will bring jobs to Oahu and help the overall economy of the island.”

When asked whether they agreed or disagreed with that assertion, 70 percent of the 900 participants either strongly agreed or somewhat agreed. Those who disagreed either somewhat or strongly were outnumbered 630 to 243 regarding perceptions on rail’s economic impact.

Even as they acknowledged concerns elsewhere in the survey about the most expensive project in state history, an overwhelming majority of Oahu residents who were polled by QMark said rail will help the economy. That amounts to a resounding rejection of the opponents’ ongoing campaign against the project.

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