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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Honolulu mayor gets 80% approval rating in poll

 •  City Council's rail approval rating mixed
 •  Rail ads reaching much of the public
 •  Favorable poll results surprise rail backers
 •  Most in Honolulu say they won't use rail regularly, poll shows
 •  76% of Oahu voters want rail on ballot

By Sean Hao
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Mayor Mufi Hannemann

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Day 1 Sunday

Do O'ahu residents support the city's plan to build a $3.7 billion commuter rail?

Day 2 Monday

Will residents, especially those near transit stops, ride the rail if it is built?

Day 3 yesterday

How have pro-rail and anti-rail ads impacted community perception?

Day 4 TODAY

Has the rail campaign changed the perception of Mayor Mufi Hannemann?

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A robust 80 percent of those interviewed in the Hawai'i Poll approve of the job Mayor Mufi Hannemann is doing running the city.

The mayor's approval rating drops to 57 percent when respondents were asked to evaluate his handling of the proposed commuter rail system.

Either way, the poll indicates Hannemann is the strong favorite for re-election this fall.

"I think he's pretty invincible," said Ira Rohter, a political science professor at the University of Hawai'i, who is not connected to the Hannemann campaign.

"Except for the rail, there's been no striking opposition to what he's been doing," said Rohter. "He's basically doing his job and the people appreciate that. That's what I think 80 percent represents."

The Hawai'i Poll was conducted by Ward Research Inc. for The Honolulu Advertiser and KGMB9. A total of 510 O'ahu residents were surveyed by phone from July 12 to 17. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

Hannemann has staked much of his reputation on building a 20-mile elevated commuter line from East Kapolei to Ala Moana. While the mayor's intense support for the $3.7 billion project has hurt his popularity, it does not seem to be a major liability, based on results of the survey.

Just 13 percent of those polled disapproved of Hannemann's overall performance.

The mayor's high approval rating does not bode well for his opponents heading into the September primary election. Hannemann is opposed by city councilwoman Ann Kobayashi and UH engineer Panos Prevedouros.

The three candidates differ on the rail project. Kobayashi wants to change the technology from steel wheels on steel tracks to rubber tires on concrete. Prevedouros is running on a promise to stop the rail plan.

OPPONENTS SKEPTICAL

Hannemann's critics, such as the nonprofit Stop Rail Now, contend the mayor has been heavy-handed in pushing the train project, which they argue will cost too much and won't solve traffic problems. They point to, among other things, the mayor's decision to move forward with steel wheels on steel rail for the mass-transit system, regardless of any City Council objections.

Hannemann said the poll results validate the work his staff has done on rail and other issues.

"People are giving us high marks, and our team has worked very hard, and deservedly so," Hannemann said in an interview. "This is going to be a campaign about the job we've been doing as the mayor and the team at City Hall. So rail is one thing, (but) public safety, the environment, the parks, the economy" are also key.

Hannemann's opponents disputed the poll's results.

Kobayashi said internal polls and conversations with city residents indicate a greater dissatisfaction with Hannemann.

"We just got into the campaign and it hasn't even been a week," she said. "We're reaching out to people. From the reaction I've been getting people are happy someone is going to bring some openness to the financial operations of government and the way things are being done."

Prevedouros also said the poll does not accurately reflect the level of opposition to Hannemann among residents.

"When I talk to communities I see so much essentially anti-Mufi sentiment," he said. "They do not like the way the mayor really behaves," he said.

"He's pursuing an unpopular project in an unpopular way," Prevedouros said.

'PHENOMENAL' RATING

Rebecca Ward, president of Ward Research, said Hannemann's approval ratings are unprecedented.

"I'd use the word phenomenal," she said. "For him to have an 80 percent approval overall it means people are aware of the other things that the mayor has done, and feel strongly about what the mayor has done."

City Council Chair Barbara Marshall agreed that Hannemann seems to be benefiting from broad public approval outside of the rail issue.

"Good for him. I think it does show that the public doesn't think that being the mayor is a one-issue job," she said. "The mayor does a superb job in many, many, many areas. We happen to disagree on transit. That doesn't mean I don't approve of much of what he does."

The mayor's race is nonpartisan, and could be wrapped up with the primary election on Sept. 20 if one of the candidates gets more than 50 percent of the vote. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent, the top two candidates go on to the Nov. 4 general election.

Charles Djou, who opposes the rail project, agreed that the poll indicates that it will be tough to unseat Hannemann.

"Certainly it does," he said. "I hand it to Mufi, but the ultimate poll is the one on the ballot box," he said.

Staff writer Gordon Y.K. Pang contributed to this report. Reach Sean Hao at shao@honoluluad vertiser.com or 525-8093.

Reach Sean Hao at shao@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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