Thursday, July 28, 2011

Support for Rail Soared in 3 Best-Practices Polls, so Remember It when the Media Roll Out Theirs

Yesterday’s rediscovery of the “forgotten” 2008 public opinion survey on Honolulu rail was one of those “aha” moments that deserves a second look.

The Business Roundtable-commissioned OmniTrak poll found 59-percent support for rail and 38-percent opposition among 1500 respondents. The margin of error was +/- 3 percent. The Roundtable was neutral on rail at the time, so there’s no question about the survey’s objectivity, a favorite concern of anti-railers when results come in they don’t like.

The OmniTrak survey helps validate the two conducted more recently that found exceptionally similar results. (See our “aggregation” post for all three polls' results.)

QMark's surveys in 2009 and again this past May found support for rail was 60 percent and 57 percent respectively. The margin of error in both surveys of 900 respondents was +/- 3.27 percent.

By the Book

The default position of anti-railers about these polls is that they were somehow written to slant the results toward support for rail. It’s a preposterous assertion, inasmuch as the companies would have forfeited their credibility and therefore their futures had they done that. Both Honolulu survey firms abide by the scientific polling standards of the national associations to which they belong.

Their surveys bear no resemblance to the “question-of-the-day” polls the media like to post online or conduct via calls into a TV station. You’re seen them: “Do you want the Honolulu rail project to continue – yes or no?”

It’s a come one, come all approach that’s unscientific in the extreme and attracts opponents by giving them a venue to vent against the project. Scientific opinion surveys make their approach look ridiculous.

Please do remember the difference the next time one of the media floats a poll.  Remember, too, that the 2008 Business Roundtable poll was the foundation for the trifecta of scientific opinion surveys showing strong public support for Honolulu rail over the past three years. You can bet on it.

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