Former Congressman Neil Abercrombie has a wide lead in the Democratic governor’s primary, according to a new Civil Beat poll.

Abercrombie would get 48 percent of the vote, compared to just 31 percent for former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, an automated telephone poll of 1,226 likely primary voters found. It was conducted for Civil Beat by Aloha Vote, a Hawaii subsidiary of Merriman River Group (MRG), a Connecticut research organization. The margin of error is +/- 2.75 percent.

Twelve percent said they would support another candidate (most likely Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona) and 9 percent were undecided.

“I don’t think Abercrombie can lose it unless something happens in Hawaii that defies the trend across the country in the primaries, and that’s an enormous turnout,” said Matt Fitch, executive director of Merriman River Group.


Abercrombie voters in the Sept. 18 primary are more passionate in their support, with 79 percent saying they’ll definitely vote for him, versus 71 percent for Hannemann. More Hannemann supporters are less certain of their support, with 14 percent leaning, versus 8 for Abercrombie.

“Abercrombie’s voters are more likely to vote and more motivated,” Fitch said.

The Hannemann campaign responded Friday afternoon with a written statement from spokeswoman Carolyn Tanaka.

“With regard to the poll commissioned by Civil Beat, we’d like to point out the following: The poll used an automated voice asking people to push buttons on their phone. Clearly, it did not screen for registered voters or for voters who would pull a democratic ballot – that alone makes the poll suspect. We cannot tell who likely responded to the poll, who did not. There are no demographics of any kind and there is no way to verify who picked up the phone and participated.”

The Abercrombie campaign also put out a written statement.

“We’re not taking anything for granted, and everyone’s participation and vote matters,” spokeswoman Laurie Au said. “We will continue to work hard until the last vote is cast on September 18.”

The two principal reasons Abercrombie voters are supporting him are his stance on education and concerns about negative campaign tactics by Hannemann, with more than 30 percent picking each.


The two main reasons voters are backing Hannemann are his positions on education and civil unions, with 25 percent picking the former and 21 percent the latter.

UPDATE: This graphic was incorrect in an earlier version of this article, with the percentages for not sure and other swapped.

Abercrombie is dominating his former congressional district, the 1st, 51-27. The results are the same if you look at the entire island of Oahu. And even on the neighbor islands, where Hannemann has made much of his collaborative relationships with the mayors, Abercrombie is leading 44-37.

The poll results come the same week that campaign finance reports for the period from July 1 to Sept. 3 showed Abercrombie surging, more than doubling the total contributions received by Hannemann. However it’s the first poll that shows Abercrombie clearly pulling away, beyond the margin of error. A Hawaii News Now/Honolulu Star-Advertiser poll of likely Democratic primary voters published Aug. 22 showed Abercrombie with 49 percent, Hannemann with 44 and 8 percent undecided.

The problem for Hannemann, said Fitch, is that he “would need an amazingly huge turnout by non Democratic voters in a Democratic primary. For him to win, Independents and Republicans would have to outnumber Democrats in voting.” Hawaii primaries are open and Republicans and Independents are permitted to vote the Democratic ballot.

The winner of the Democratic primary is expected to face Aiona in the Nov. 2 general election.

MORE: Read an analysis of the poll’s findings.

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