Monday, August 13, 2012

Yes2Rail Ends Its 4-Year Run with This Observation: With Pro-Rail Candidates Having Won the Primary Election, 55-to-45 Percent, the Project's Public Involvement Team Obviously Has Been Doing Its Educational Job, Plus: Now’s the Time to Reform Public Opinion Polling Methodology on Rail and Demand More from the News Media

November 6, 2012 Update: Pro-rail Kirk Caldwell defeated anti-railer Ben Cayetano in today's mayoral election, 53.9 to 46.1 percent. The result mirrors the August primary election's pro-rail outcome, as summarized in the headline above and in the post below. (We probably shouldn't say "told you so," but in fact, we did.) And if you're really curious about what we said about Mr. Cayetano's transportation ideas, visit our aggregation site and scroll down to the 2012 Mayoral Race and Rail section.

Barring unexpected developments that could reverse this decision, today’s post is Yes2Rail’s last – number 804 in the series that began on June 30, 2008. So we sign off with a few closing comments as we prepare to concentrate our energies on All Things California.

Some people in Honolulu would have you believe the rail project is like a boxer who’s barely surviving the 10th round of a 12-round championship fight. He’s ahead on all the scorecards, but still they work hard to convince the public that a knockout punch is likely even this late in the fight – despite all the evidence.

The Honolulu Elevated Rail Project is farther down the track than any other proposal to create a traffic-free commuting alternative in Our Honolulu’s congestion-choked southern corridor. The project's Full Funding Grant Agreement application is in Washington and is likely to be approved in the next few months, something the late Frank F. Fasi, who was elected Honolulu's mayor six times, never came close to achieving despite multiple attempts to build rail.  His final plan died in the City Council 20 years ago this Fall.

So how did rail succeed this time around? Oh, I dunno…..maybe because it benefited from an excellent public information campaign! That’s one conclusion someone could make (we just did), since rail has been consistently supported by Oahu residents several years running, including only two days ago.

In 2008, the pro-rail candidates won and anti-railers lost. A scientific poll released four years ago this month found 58 percent of those surveyed supporting rail, while only 38 percent said they were opposed. Remember the City Charter amendment that year directing the City’s transportation division to pursue a steel-on-steel system? It passed.

One year later, a poll reported 60 percent support for the project among those who were scientifically surveyed – 34 percent strongly supportive and 26 percent somewhat supportive. Of the 37 percent who said they were opposed, 21 percent were strongly against the project, and 16 percent were somewhat opposed.

In 2010, pro-rail candidates won, anti-rail candidates lost. Voters overwhelmingly approved a City Charter amendment to create the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, thereby creating an entity to build and operate Honolulu rail.

A few months later in May 2011, another scientific survey found support for rail at 57 percent, with 40 percent opposed. That poll was publicized in the same month the Gang of Four – Cliff Slater, Ben Cayetano, Randy Roth and Walter Heen – filed a federal lawsuit to kill the rail project.

One year ago next Sunday, the Gang launched its massive public relations campaign against rail with a 1500-word commentary in the newspaper. Online Civil Beat fact-checked the piece and found numerous false statements. Civil Beat judged only two to be  TRUE , two  FALSE  and three  HALF-TRUE/HALF-FALSE .

The Gang’s PR campaign has been barreling along virtually nonstop since last August and hit its peak with the launch of former Governor Cayetano’s campaign for mayor in January, with near-constant media coverage of his anti-rail rhetoric. Yes2Rail concluded he really didn't understand rail very well. He's essentially a one-issue candidate, as the media continually remind us.

So How's Rail Doing Now?          
In spite of all this negativity about the rail, the project is doing just fine, thank you very much, and the evidence of rail’s continuing support among the public is only two days old.

Saturday’s Primary Election supplied that evidence.
Pro-Rail Candidates:  54.6 percent
Anti-Rail Candidate:   44.7 percent

After all of the criticism, all the negativity, all the accusations and misrepresentations in the anti-rail camp’s massive multi-media PR campaign (see our “aggregation site” and the Mr. Cliff Slater and Friends heading), the opponents have failed to move the needle! The rail project’s support among Oahu voters two days ago was a solid majority!

Candidates have come and gone, some won and some lost, but consistent throughout the years has been the rail project's public involvement campaign that week after week, month after month supplied residents with truthful information that helped them understand and appreciate the project.

But as they say, no good deed goes unpunished, and the rail project’s public involvement team was "whacked" this summer, to use Civil Beat's word. Those of us whose involvement with rail ends this month leave knowing the mission was accomplished.

What About the Polls?
The public opinion surveys published by the Star-Advertiser/Hawaii News Now and Civil Beat in recent weeks deserve a second look. The newspaper/TV poll published on July 29 called it almost exactly right for Mr. Cayetano – 44 percent support in the Primary. The survey underestimated Mr. Caldwell’s support by nearly 5 percentage points and overestimated Mr. Carlisle’s backing by 2 points.

Civil Beat’s most recent survey (its story was updated only last Wednesday) had Mr. Cayetano at 51 percent, thereby badly missing the election’s outcome. That poll was conducted among “very likely Oahu voters” only, a methodology CB has used repeatedly in 2012 that Yes2Rail believes is seriously flawed. UH professor Neal Milner said we had a point.

Governments do not differentiate between voters and non-voters in their planning processes. With non-voters having lower incomes and less education than voters, they’re more likely to rely on public transit than citizens who vote. Opinion surveys on rail that ignore the non-voters’ views can’t possibly reflect the community’s true support and appreciation of the rail project.

Whatever the reasons for Civil Beat’s big miss in its most recent survey, getting rid of voter-only polling can only help.

And Finally....
Yes2Rail has criticized the Honolulu news media over the past several months for their hands-off approach to covering Governor Cayetano’s bus rapid transit alternative to elevated Honolulu rail. After weeks of Yes2Rail posts calling on Mr. Cayetano to release details of his “plan,” the Star-Advertiser finally pressed the point in a late-May editorial.

However, in the end, we’re not so sure the media’s poor performance really mattered. The August 2012 Primary Election's results showed that rail continues to receive majority support among Oahu residents.

Despite the media's laid-back reporting and the opponents’ anti-rail rhetoric, residents managed to sort and sift through the information available to them from multiple sources, including the rail project itself, and gave the pro-rail candidates more votes than the would-be rail killer.

That's a good note for rail's public involvement team to leave on.

AUGUST 16th UPDATE: Letter to Honolulu Star-Advertiser:
Headline missed real vote winner
Shouldn't this have been the banner headline in Sunday's Star-Advertiser: "Pro-rail candidates win primary, 55 to 44 percent"?
Jerome M. Comcowich
Kailua   

7 comments:

Ben Yoshino said...

Doug, thanks for all the posts. I will miss this site's frequent updates.
Best wishes to you!

Roy Kamisato said...

Looks like the CB polls over weighted the Kailua and East Honolulu areas in it's polls. It was more accurate in the CD2 race because Gabbard was popular in most districts. The CB poll was inaccurate in the Senate race for the same reason it was inaccurate in the Mayor's race. It over weighted the Kailua and East Honolulu areas.

Roy Kamisato said...

It has been reported that robo polls have an 80% hang up rate and it's my guess those hanging up are younger families with kids. With the CB poll coming during the evening I can't blame them for hanging up on a computer. I believe the poll results on rail are invalid for the reasons stated above.

Roy Kamisato said...

Doug,

Unfortunately for me I came across your blog late in the process. Lucky for me I did eventually find it. The information you provided was a danger to the anti-rail machine and had to be eliminated. I will carry on as best I can to strike down the evil forces who want to move us back into the stone age. Heh, that was a bit too dramatic. Anyway I greatly appreciate your blog and hope to continue to reference it as long as it is up.

Mahalo,

Roy

Doug Carlson said...

Ben and Roy: Thanks for you comments. Your support was greatly appreciated, and Roy -- I know you're going to carry on. Your many comments had me wondering about your background...they were so informative. All the best to you and the project. Unfortunately, I can't afford to devote volunteer time to maintaining this blog now that my contact has been "whacked"(Civil Beat's word) 10.5 months sooner than it was supposed to run, and I have to replace that income now that we've moved to Sacramento. There's a rumor about a rail project here in California, so I'll have to look into it :-)

Roy Kamisato said...

Hi Doug,

Don't know if you will see this but can't tell you how much I learned from yes2rail. I used much of what I learned here to counter the anti-rail candidate on the Civil Bear forums. In fact I had a number of back and forth with Ben Cayetano on Civil Beat. Not to brag but equipted with information learned here and from other sources I took apart Ben's arguments in every case. I also posted the truth about rail on other blogs. Anyway hope you see this and mahalo for all your work.

Roy

Doug Carlson said...

Roy, it's November 9th and I'm back in California after a quick business trip to Honolulu that coincided with the November election's trouncing of anti-rail Beb Cayetano. I really appreciate your comment, Roy, and I'm delighted to see that this blog still enjoys dozens of hits each day three months after I wrote the final post on August 13. That means its work hasn't ended and likely will continue throughout this decade as the rail project meets and overcomes new challenges and attacks as it progresses toward completion.

I couldn't help but feel great satisfaction at the results. They were predictable for anyone with an open mind and an awareness of the consistent support rail had received since at least 2008 -- majorities ranging from about 51 percent to 60 percent. But the geniuses who crafted the public opinion polls used by Civil Beat and the Star-Advertisers weren't having any of it, and they're the ones with egg on their faces.

The anti-rail media columnists also must have wondered what hit them after their constant negativity about the project. The public didn't buy it, and if they were capable of eating some humble pie or crow, they would -- but I'm not holding my breath.

And I want to thank you, Roy, for your constant thoughtful contributions to the community discussion on rail -- in the comments here in this blog, at Civil Beat and elsewhere. Please keep up the good work. As for me, I'm focused on another rail project that's often on the front pages here in California, and I'll have to see wait and see if and how I might make a contribution to it. All the best to you and your fellow Honolulu rail backers.