Democrat Neil Abercrombie appears to be tightening his grip on the governor’s office, according to a new Civil Beat poll.

Abercrombie leads Republican James “Duke” Aiona 49.5 percent to 44.5 percent, with 5.2 percent undecided, an automated telephone poll of 1,181 likely voters found. The survey was conducted Oct. 23 by Aloha Vote, a Hawaii subsidiary of Merriman River Group (MRG). The margin of error was +/- 2.9 percent.

A poll conducted two weeks earlier found the split to be 47.2 percent to 44.3 percent, with 8.5 percent undecided.

“Not much is moving and time is slipping away for Aiona to do anything,” said Matt Fitch, Merriman’s executive director. Thirty-four percent of those surveyed had already voted. “The thing that struck me the most is that it’s not a big lead, but it seems like a very, very stable lead.”

The poll found that those voters who remain undecided are heavily pro-President Obama, a profile that makes them far more likely to vote for the Democratic candidate. Seventy-three percent of voters who approve of Obama’s job performance support Abercrombie, while just 22 percent back Aiona.

“In this case, a real, real low turnout is Aiona’s only chance. That means the undecideds stay home,” Fitch said. “Unless there’s something totally off the radar that happens in the last week, it looks like it’s heading for an Abercrombie high single-digit win.”

What’s keeping the race close, he said, is that there’s a divide in the Democratic party.

“Abercrombie got votes in the primary just because he wasn’t (former Honolulu Mayor Mufi) Hannemann, but he’s done poorly winning over Hannemann voters.” The picture would be much better for him if he had been able to win a majority of those votes.

Aiona is capturing the support of those who think the country is going in the wrong direction. Of those who feel that way, 83.7 percent say they’re voting for him. The poll found that 56.7 percent of likely Hawaii voters have a positive view of the direction of the country. That compares with 37.5 percent who thinks it’s going in the wrong direction.

Hawaii voters’ views on the direction of the country are almost the reverse of the national picture.

Real Clear Politics reports that the national average for that question in the past 10 days or so is 31.8 percent think the country is moving in the right direction, with 62.2 percent saying it’s on the wrong track.

When it comes to the direction of the state, the candidates are splitting the vote more evenly. Abercrombie is garnering the support of 46.2 percent of those who feel the state is heading in the wrong direction while Aiona is getting 49 percent of those voters. The poll found that 53.5 percent think the state is heading in the right direction, with 40.1 percent believing it’s moving in a negative direction.

The effects of the tough Democratic primary campaign between Abercrombie and Hannemann are still being felt. Aiona is getting the vote of 61.3 percent of those who backed Hannemann in the primary, with Abercrombie getting just 35 percent. Abercrombie also continues to see a sizeable group who voted for him in the primary — 15.9 percent — shifting their support to his opponent.

“What’s keeping this close,” said Fitch, “is Abercrombie’s struggle to win over Hannemann voters and the surprising chunk of Abercrombie voters (in the primary) going for Aiona in the general election.”

Of the group who voted for Abercrombie in the primary and are now voting for Aiona, 88 percent are Oahu residents, the poll found.

“It’s safe to say it was an anti-Hannemann vote,” Fitch said.

While Abercrombie is stronger with women, 51.4 percent to 43.9 percent, he’s also leading with men, although the margin is within the margin of error, 47.8 percent vs. 46.8 percent.

Abercrombie is winning with all racial groups except whites and people who say they’re of two or more races. He’s also neck-and-neck with Aiona among Catholic voters, despite Aiona’s strongly professed religious views.

When it comes to education, Abercrombie wins with those with a high school degree or less, those with a graduate degree and those with post graduate degrees. The former group breaks down 51.6 percent for Abercrombie and 41.3 percent for Aiona. The middle group splits 50.8 to 44.9 for Abercrombie. The latter group is the most heavily pro-Abercrombie, with 63.8 percent on his side and 32.9 percent for Aiona. Aiona leads with those with some college or college graduate, essentially 50 percent to 45 percent.

COMING WEDNESDAY: Hawaii’s congressional races.

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