Putting Polls, Pols Into Perspective

Larry Price
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Wednesday - June 23, 2010
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Lt. Gov. ‘Duke’ Aiona

The civil rights group Equality Hawaii was exploring the possibility of an economic boycott against Hawaii Business Roundtable members who supported a letter from its executive committee urging a governor’s veto of the civil union measure. Mind you, the letter doesn’t take a position on civil unions, but takes issue with the language in the bill, and suggests the formation of a commission to study the matter and make recommendations for the next legislative session.

The roundtable is a public policy group of senior executives from about 50 top companies that are based in Hawaii or do a lot of business here. I hope Equality Hawaii will reconsider after “exploring” the possibility of an economic boycott against the very noble group of community-minded business leaders. At a more basic level, the belief that threatening an economic boycott against any group of business leaders is a very doubtful way to influence people.

It is the governor’s responsibility to either veto the measure, let it become law without her signature or sign it into law. Gov. Lingle has been soliciting input from everyone imaginable, so it is her call. Granted, at least half of the people interested in this legislation will be happy and the other half will be upset when she makes her decision, although it’s safe to say there’s a large segment that doesn’t really care one way or another.


There are, more often than not, ulterior motives to employing any kind of influence strategies. One is the curiosity of wanting to know how people are going to vote on an important issue. They just can’t wait, they want to know now.Another is many of these threats have economic consequences.

The most classic example is upon us now: the gubernatorial campaign. Everyone wants to know who’s ahead. They can’t wait for the primary or general election, because they have a stake in the outcome.

There is no question that candidates conduct ongoing polls to keep their finger on the pulse of the voting public, and they seldom agree with the media pollsters.

One of the more prolific media pollsters is the Rasmussen Reports. Its latest headline says, “Election 2010: Hawaii Governor. Two Top Democrats Well Ahead of GOP’s Aiona.” The obvious question from the average voter is: “So what? It’s only June.”

In this case, polling is a form of media advertising. When candidates read these kinds of polls they feel the need to advertise more to enhance their name recognition. There is big money in political advertising, and in many cases it works. It also inflames or dampens political contributions. Hawaii is notorious for supporting the front-runner. Anyone who takes polls - call them instantaneous snapshots - seriously will more often than not be disappointed in the final analysis. The size of the sample, the way the sample is collected and the wording of the question all make for inaccuracies and media bias in polls.

Having said all that, I conducted my own “unofficial” poll on one of the Republican gubernatorial candidates, Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona. In a state controlled by the Democratic Party, the Republicans always poll poorly, even though they win a few elections now and then.

My poll was to determine if Aiona would go into the gubernatorial campaign with his mustache or without it. Does he feel he looks more gubernatorial with it or without it? Two simple questions. My sampling size was one.

His response was yes, he would campaign without his mustache. The second answer was yes, because his wife and children thought he looked more gubernatorial without it.

Of course, the voters will have the ultimate say, but my unscientific poll predicts he will go into the election season without his trademark mustache. The margin of error is zero because his family has already made the important decision for him. This is a poll you can trust, while others may or may not be correct.

Just ask Ed Case.

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