Friday, March 9, 2012

Civil Beat Poll Identifies Rail As Issue Number 1; More Surveys Are Needed for Better ‘Snapshots’

Day 5 of Civil Beat’s coverage of its public opinion survey reports that Honolulu rail is “Top Issue for Honolulu Voters

Of the several issues investigated in the survey – rail, homelessness, local economy, infrastructure, local taxes and fees, or something else – rail has received more media coverage than the others combined. That’s a guess, but a good one.

Of the three mayoral candidates, no guesswork is needed to know which has received the most election-related coverage. Anti-rail Ben Cayetano officially announced his candidacy on January 19. Mayor Peter Carlisle and former managing director Kirk Caldwell both support building the Honolulu rail system, but neither has received much if any campaign-related coverage so far.

The “snapshot in time” description of public opinion polls certainly applies to Civil Beat’s poll, as well as the Star-Advertiser/Hawaii News Now survey conducted during the two weeks immediately following Mr. Cayetano’s announcement.

The pro-rail candidates and their supporters are still on the sidelines this year. That doesn’t invalidate the polls’ findings, but that fact does provide more perspective than what the poll sponsors have observed.

The bigger issue with Civil Beat’s poll is what we focused on yesterday. It was a “push poll” that pushed only “concerns” about rail at the Oahu residents who participated in survey and ignored rail’s benefits.

The American Association for Public Opinion Research “condemns” push polls that give only one side of an issue, which is what Civil Beat did on rail, so it wasn’t surprising the poll found residents are “concerned” about it.

You have to hope future media polls on rail will be balanced more appropriately in their set-up and will be conducted after all the candidates are off the sidelines and in the game.

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