When QMark’s research says 57 percent of Oahu residents support the Honolulu rail project, you can believe it's an accurate reflection of what Oahu residents think – accurate to within 3.2 percentage points, the margin of error in a survey of 900 respondents.
In light of last night’s generally anti-rail community meeting sponsored by the City Council’s representative from District 1, the poll’s results in that district are of special interest. The scientifically sampled residents of Ewa, Ewa Beach, Honouliuli, West Loch, Kapolei, Kalaeloa (Barber's Point), Honokai Hale and Nanakai Gardens, Ko'Olina, Nanakuli, Wai'anae, Makaha, Keaau and Makua told QMark said they support rail by the same 57-to-40 percent split found in all of Oahu.
Dismissing the Poll
Hawaii News Now quoted the Council member who represents District 1 on June 1 about the just-released survey’s results:
We don’t know the wording of the basic principle of public opinion polling, but surely it goes something like this: “Do not influence the poll’s outcome by the questions you ask.” QMark’s survey technique passes that test. The company's report on its May survey says pollsters began their dialogue with the 900 respondents to the survey with this truthful statement and no other commentary:
The survey report continues: “Residents were then asked to rate their overall level of support for this project and were instructed to quantify their perceptions using a standard four-point rating scale with they strongly support this project assigned a value of four and they strongly oppose it assigned a value of one." The 57-to-40 percent split in favor of rail was the response.
Those who don't believe District 1’s support for rail sometimes accuse the City of lying to the public or withholding information that, if released, would have been injurious to the rail project.
For example, the Council member quotes Director of Transportation Services Wayne Yoshioka as saying “traffic congestion will be worse in the future with rail than what it is today without rail.” That quote is used as something of an indictment; it’s from Mr. Yoshioka’s 25-page letter of June 11, 2010 responding to Cliff Slater of Stop Rail Now and Honolulutraffic.com.
Rail opponents don't include Mr. Yoshioka’s entire quote, however. They stop short and therefore deliberately leave out the essence of Mr. Yoshioka’s response. The graphic immediately below is lifted from Mr. Yoshioka's letter, which is found on pages 1251-52 in Appendix A of the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement. (The Appendix is a big file; be prepared for a long download.) If the graphic is too small to read with comfort, click it to enlarge.
“The comparison that is key to the Project is that rail will improve conditions compared to what they would be if the Project is not built.” And: “Accordingly, traffic conditions will be significantly better with the fixed guideway compared to the No Build Alternative.”
Ignoring the entire quote follows Mr. Slater’s lead in obfuscating rail’s positive impact on traffic congestion. As we’ve noted at Yes2Rail repeatedly since last July when Mr. Slater sat for a video interview with Civil Beat, promoters of the “traffic will be worse with rail than without it” argument are deliberately confusing the public on the issue. Mr. Slater also stops short in discussing rail. Here’s what he told Civil Beat about how he begins his presentations:
Of course, it doesn’t do anything of the sort. Mr. Slater and those who follow this truncated argument leave out the rest of the story – that traffic would be even worse without the rail system. When asked by the City Council last July to respond to Mr. Slater’s summing up of the argument, Mr. Yoshioka responded:
The Bottom Line
Every City Council district, including District 1, registered majority support for rail in QMark's poll after years of opponent campaigning that ignored rail’s positive contribution in reducing future traffic congestion. In other words, even with opponents describing rail in the worst possible light (see Mr. Slater's Civil Beat video), Oahu residents overwhelmingly support the Honolulu rail project. That's a reality that the politicians who run the City and County of Honolulu presumably can't ignore.