That’s what’s happening with the Star-Advertiser/Hawaii News Now poll on the Honolulu rail project, which allegedly found public support for rail slipping to 43 percent. The survey had two obvious flaws; it was conducted within two weeks of Ben Cayetano’s official announcement to run for mayor on an anti-rail platform, and its key question was poorly worded.
Here’s how Hawaii News Now began its story yesterday on Senator Daniel K. Inouye’s decision to support a pro-rail candidate in the race: “A recent poll showed 53 percent of people on Oahu want rail stopped and 43 percent want it to force ahead.” The question they responded to was, “Do you think work should proceed on Oahu’s rail transit system?” As we noted last week, that’s not the same as asking for an opinion on whether the system should be built.
Respondents who in effect answered “don’t proceed” may have really been thinking “don’t proceed until rail has a green light, then build it as fast as you can!” The poll’s two media sponsors simply ignore the wording problem.
“If asked to say anything, I would be in favor of rail,” he said. “To be honest I suppose I would support a candidate who supports rail. I’m not the type that goes out of his way to cut his own throat.”
Mayor Peter Carlisle, who is seeking reelection, and challenger Kirk Caldwell, the managing director under Mr. Carlisle’s predecessor, both support the rail project.
Mr. Inouye also alluded to the recent opinion survey’s results and timing. The S-A reported the senator said he was surprised the alleged slippage of voter support but that he gives little credence to polls several months ahead of the August election.
“...I feel certain that once the debate begins and reasons are given, it’ll change,” he said. Messrs. Carlisle and Caldwell have yet to begin their campaigns, and media coverage so far in 2012 has tilted heavily toward the anti-rail candidate.
As Senator Inouye noted, that’s bound to change, and so will public opinion – assuming, of course, that the polling company can do a better job of constructing questions that don't give the respondents something to ponder before they answer.
Rail will cut waste for businesses (Star-Advertiser, 2/20)
Cayetano should change view on rail (Star-Advertiser, 2/20)
That’s the way it works, and that’s how it’ll work here, too, in a city with some of the highest gas prices and car ownership costs in the country. We’ll gladly stand, then sit during our morning and afternoon commute if doing so helps pay for any number of things, including that long airplane trip to Vegas, New York or Paris – sitting down just about all the way.