A strong majority of Hawaii voters want the government to preserve more land and develop less of it.

The Civil Beat Poll found 53 percent of those surveyed want more preservation, versus 14 percent who want more development and 23 percent who say the current balance is about right. Eleven percent said they weren’t sure.

The survey of 1,162 registered voters1 across the state in mid-April shows Kauai was most supportive of preservation. The Big Island alone had a slim plurality of voters who say no more land preservation is needed.

The poll comes as the Hawaii Land Use Commission considers petitions for major master-planned residential developments called Hoopili and Koa Ridge. The Mormon Church is pushing for growth into an as-yet-untouched valley near Laie, and the Hawaii Legislature will vote Thursday on a bill that would relax environmental regulations for transit-oriented development near rail stations.

And that’s just on Oahu.

The survey did not mention or ask about any of those specific projects or any others by name. So voters’ general preference for preservation over development shouldn’t be taken as opposition to any specific proposal.

Instead, voters were asked, “How do you feel about the balance between preserving Hawaii’s land versus encouraging residential and commercial land development? Do you believe that the government should encourage more land preservation, more land development, or do you think that the balance is about right already?”

Answers from likely voters, registered non-voters and 2008-only voters were statistically identical. The Civil Beat Poll identified some differences between those three voting groups as part of its look at how Hawaii might be different if more people voted. (For more about the attitudes of voters versus non-voters, read this earlier story: Civil Beat Poll – Hawaii Opposes Gay Marriage, Marijuana, Rail)

Perhaps not coincidentally, the smallest county is most supportive of preservation and the largest county the most supportive of development.

On Kauai, 64 percent of voters say they want more preservation versus 13 percent who want more development and 18 percent who say the balance is good today. On the Big Island, the voters who want more preservation (44 percent) are actually outnumbered by those who say either that they want more development (20 percent) or that the balance is about right already (26 percent) if you add the two groups together.

Honolulu and Maui County fall between those extremes.

Here are some other quick takeaways:

  • Women are more likely to support preservation (58 percent) than men (49 percent).
  • Liberals/progressives and Democrats are far more likely to support preservation, while nearly half of conservatives and Republicans say either that we need more development or that the balance is OK.
  • Native Hawaiians, Caucasians and Latinos/Hispanics are most in favor of preservation, while Chinese voters are closest to a split opinion.

See the full crosstabulations and demographic analysis below.

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