What Polls Show For Hawaii’s Pols

The most hackneyed phrase in the political lexicon belongs to the nameless politician who, upon reading a poll that showed him behind his opponent, groused: “The only poll that counts takes place on election day.”

True enough. Still, the recent Hawaii Poll published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser provided numbers that should alarm politicians running for some of our state’s highest offices, starting with an old pol who’s seeking his second term as Hawaii’s governor.

For several months now, Neil Abercrombie has been touting his stewardship of the state’s economy. He mentions Hawaii’s low unemployment rate and its $800 million budget surplus, among other things.

Yet the Hawaii Poll of 642 registered voters – conducted between Feb. 1 and 11 by Ward Research – showed Abercrombie ahead of his largely unknown and grossly underfunded primary opponent, state Sen. David Ige, 47 percent to 38 percent, with 14 percent uncertain. And in a general election rematch against announced Republican Duke Aiona, Aiona is favored by 48 percent to Abercrombie’s 40 percent, with 12 percent on the fence.

Abercrombie inherited Hawaii’s version of the Great Recession from Linda Lingle. Like Lingle and other governors across the country, he had to ask public sector unions to sacrifice themselves on the altar of fiscal prudence. His administration made unions a “final offer.” Abercrombie told some interests he was “not their friend,” but their governor.

Unions don’t forget. Hawaii State Teachers Association recently endorsed Ige for governor.

Then there’s same-sex marriage. In 2011, Abercrombie signed a civil unions bill similar to the one Lingle vetoed in the waning months of her second term. Last fall, he called a special legislative session to consider same-sex marriage, then signed posthaste a bill that legalized them. Liberals applauded Abercrombie as conservatives simmered. They, like union members, don’t forget.

So with but five months remaining before the Aug. 9 primary election, an incumbent governor with a household name finds that half the folks disapprove of him, and both his primary and general election opponents are within striking distance.

In the U.S. Senate contest, Ward Research found that 48 percent of those polled earlier this month would vote for Hanabusa, 40 percent for Brian Schatz and 11 percent “don’t know.”

Hanabusa also beat Schatz among folks who make a religion out of voting in Democratic primaries: union, senior and Japanese-American voters. Fifty-five percent of Japanese-American voters polled opted for Hanabusa. Schatz won the Caucasians polled, with 61 percent of that demographic – ethnic voting lives on in Hawaii politics.

Both Schatz and Abercrombie have full campaign treasuries. Schatz will use his to make himself better known; 25 percent of those polled had either never heard of him or didn’t know enough about him to render an opinion. Abercrombie will buy plenty of advertising to keep Ige, Aiona and maybe even Mufi Hannemann at bay. The governor’s reelection campaign may even commission a poll or two.

But the only two that count will take place Aug. 9 and Nov. 4.