We’re long past the Poll Tax era in America, yet Civil Beat would have you believe the tide is running against rail based only on voters' attitudes. Whatever happened to the concept of removing rail from politics?
And that’s not the only eyebrow-raising feature of this survey. Fully 70 percent of the respondents have college degrees, according to what’s been published at Civil Beat. That’s approximately 40 percentage points higher than what the the Hawaii State Data Book says the population has attained – 29.6 percent in 2009 with a “bachelor’s degree or more.”
The Federal Transit Administration says in one of its publications: “Lower income-households are more transit-dependent and less likely to own a car than other demographic groups, and are more likely than higher-income households to use transit for non-work trips during ‘off-peak’ hours.” There are numerous online references to the impact of education and income on transit use.
Another way to evaluate the poll’s results is to anticipate the effect on transit ridership that current and future increases in the cost of gasoline will have on the population. The American Public Transit Association recently issued a press release that said, based on current gas prices, Honolulu residents can save $949 a month and $11,388 a year by giving up one car and using TheBus instead.
Rising gas prices matter more to those with fewer financial resources – which again means by being so focused on the other end of the education/income scale, the Merriman Group survey didn't reflect how the broader population will be likely to react to those increases – by riding transit.
Another response from Mr. Temple said, “I don’t believe you will find a poll in Hawaii that has shared more about its methodology than the Civil Beat poll. Look what’s on the site today. Read the methodology….” It’s not the methodology's transparency that concerns us. It’s the methodology itself, for reasons we’ve outlined above.
Mr. Temple also suggests we’re upset with his poll because we don’t like the results. We responded that he was only half right. The other half is that we’re questioning the validity of the methodology – a legitimate inquiry that’s intended to help all of us better understand the survey's results.
April 2013 Update: The 2012 mayoral election pitting pro-rail Kirk Caldwell and anti-rail ex-Governor Ben Cayetano validated our view of public opinion on this issue. Mr. Caldwell won with a solid majority. Mr. Temple has moved on and up to become the Washington Post's managing editor.