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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, September 8, 2002

Poll shows Hirono leading in Democratic primary

By Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Capitol Bureau Chief

With two weeks to go before the voting, Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono has a substantial lead over her two main competitors in the Democratic primary, according to The Honolulu Advertiser Hawai'i Poll.

On the Republican side, the poll shows Linda Lingle has a lead of nearly 80 percentage points over her opponent, John Carroll, among people who plan to vote in the GOP primary.

About the poll

The poll consisted of a random statewide phone survey of 421 registered voters who identified themselves as likely to vote in the Democratic primary and 226 registered voters who identified themselves as likely to vote in the Republican primary. The margin of`error means that 95 times out of 100, the sample data would differ by no more than plus or minus 5 percentage points (7 points in the Republican primary) from total population data, if all Hawai'i registered voters were polled.

Those results suggest it is increasingly likely that Lingle will face Hirono in the general election, which would mean no matter how the general election turns out, Hawai'i would elect its first woman governor this year.

Of those who said they plan to vote in the Democratic primary, almost 43 percent said they would vote for Hirono if the election were held today.

The poll found that Ed Case had 23 percent of support and D.G. "Andy" Anderson had 18 percent, close enough to be within the poll's margin of error.

The margin of error for the Democratic primary portion of the poll is 5 percentage points, meaning that in a survey of all Hawai'i registered voters, the percentage of support for each candidate could be 5 points higher or lower. The margin of error for the Republican portion of the poll is 7 percentage points.

The statewide poll of 647 registered voters who said they planned to vote in either the Democratic or Republican primary was conducted Aug. 30 to Sept. 3 by Ward Research Inc. of Honolulu.

Jim Wang, political science professor emeritus at the University of Hawai'i at Hilo, said it is possible support could abruptly shift in the final days before the Sept. 21 primary if there is a big advertising push by one of the candidates, or if one of the candidates gains or loses significant ground in a debate. But it appears Hirono is "way ahead," he said.

"I personally don't think this will change that much unless Case or Anderson suddenly pours a lot of money in the ads to overcome Hirono, but I don't think that will happen," Wang said.

Thus far in the campaign, Case and Anderson have both been short of campaign cash, which has limited their ability to advertise.

"I'm very gratified, of course, but with two weeks to go, obviously I'm working very hard to the very last moment," Hirono said of the poll results. "My message is getting through, my experience, my commitment to education and economic growth, that's getting through."

The poll shows Hirono has gained more ground than her two opponents since the last Hawai'i Poll in early June. The new poll suggests Anderson gained a few percentage points in the past nine weeks, but Case has barely advanced.

Case said the poll results aren't surprising because the polling was done after a surge in advertising by Anderson and Hirono, and before a televised debate Thursday night in which Case said he believes he bested his opponents.

The Hawai'i Poll, taken before gubernatorial candidates Ed Case, left, Andy Anderson and Mazie Hirono met in a televised debate last week, shows Hirono a strong favorite among Democratic voters.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

"Given the clear result of the debate and Hirono's obvious absence of a plan and refusal to have any other debates, and the fact that we are back on the air, her numbers will erode rapidly as people decide over the next two weeks that she doesn't have what it takes to be governor," Case said.

Anderson said he has seen two other polls by professionals that show him running a relatively close second to Hirono, so he is not sure what to believe.

"I started this race by telling people that, win or lose, I would raise the level of the bar on issues, I would speak to the issues, I would say how instead of political rhetoric," Anderson said. "I have done that, so I can pass through the system if I should lose (and look) in the mirror in the morning and say, 'At least I tried to move Hawai'i or change Hawai'i.' And I can ask, 'What did you do?' And I can go on with life."

Of the voters who said they plan to vote in the Democratic primary, the Hawai'i Poll found that Hirono is by far the strongest of the three Democratic candidates among Filipino and Japanese voters, who are the stalwarts of the Democratic party base.

Hirono was also the favorite of Hawaiian and part-Hawaiian voters who said they plan to vote in the Democratic primary, while Case was the favorite of Caucasian voters.

Overall, Hirono has a lead of more than 20 percentage points among voters who said they usually vote for Democratic candidates. She also has a significant lead among independent voters who said they plan to vote in the Democratic primary.

That is bad news for Case, who has worked hard to attract independent voters, and needs their support if he is to emerge from the Democratic primary.

Hirono also leads by a large margin among households where at least one person is a member of a union. That may be a disappointment for Anderson, who has received some union support and endorsements and had hoped those would help boost him in the primary contest.

Hirono is somewhat more popular on the Neighbor Islands than on O'ahu, but has a significant lead among both Honolulu and Neighbor Island voters.

The poll suggests that about 65 percent of Hawai'i voters plan to vote in the Democratic primary, which would be low for a contested Democratic gubernatorial primary.

The three-way Democratic primary in the 1986 governor's race drew 85 percent of all primary voters, while a contested Democratic primary in 1994 drew 70 percent of the voters.

In the Republican primary, almost 87 percent said they would vote for former Maui Mayor Lingle if the primary election were held today, while only 7 percent said they would vote for Carroll, a former state senator.

Lloyd Yonenaka, press secretary for Lingle, said Lingle is pleased with the poll results.

"We hope it bodes well for the general election," he said. "We've been out campaigning, working very hard, and we're going to work hard through the primary and right through to the general."

Carroll said he remains confident he will defeat Lingle.

"The only poll that makes any sense to me is the one on Sept. 21st," he said. "I'm just finding a tremendous groundswell of support for what I'm doing here."