WASHINGTON — Colleen Hanabusa doubled her advantage over Republican Charles Djou in about a month, pointing to another term for the Democrat, according to The Civil Beat Poll.

A survey of voters across the state between Oct. 24 and Oct. 26 showed both Hanabusa and Tulsi Gabbard on track to keep Hawaii’s two seats in the U.S. House of Representatives blue. Hanabusa’s edge was 54 percent to 43 percent among 657 likely general election voters in the 1st congressional district, while Gabbard’s lead was 73 percent to 15 percent among 562 voters in the 2nd congressional district. The margins of error were 3.8 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively.1

Hanabusa’s 11-point advantage is up from the 49 percent to 44 percent lead Civil Beat found in the first post-primary-election survey of the race conducted Sept. 26 to Sept. 28.

For Djou, there’s not much time left to turn things around and not much flexibility left in the electorate.

Hanabusa held a 55 percent to 45 percent lead among the third of respondents who said they’d already voted; early walk-in voting began Oct. 23, around the same time absentee mail ballots were delivered to voters. Only 3 percent of voters surveyed were still undecided, and 93 percent of Hanabusa voters said they would definitely back her versus 7 percent who said they were only leaning toward her.

“He’s hanging in there. He’s hanging tough. He’s got good name recognition. But it definitely does appear that Colleen Hanabusa has stretched it out a little bit over the last poll,” said Merriman River Group Executive Director Matt Fitch, who partners with Civil Beat on its polls.

“To the extent that leaners and undecideds make up their mind in the last week, they’re going to be hearing Hanabusa, Hanabusa, Hanabusa” because of her fundraising advantage, Fitch said. “It feels like the real question is ‘What is her margin of victory going to be?’ rather than ‘Will she win?’ That’s kind of what this poll suggests. Will she win by a bigger margin than she did two years ago?”

The Rubber Match

The matchup is the third between Hanabusa and Djou for the same seat, and they split the first two. Djou first went to Congress in mid-2010 to finish the term of Neil Abercrombie, who’d resigned after 20 years to run for governor. Djou topped Hanabusa and Ed Case, who divided the Democratic vote in a winner-take-all special election.

After Case left the race, Hanabusa beat Djou by 6 percent in November 2010 amid a nationwide wave of Tea Party Republicans taking the House back from Democrats. Djou was one of just two incumbent Republican U.S. representatives to lose in 2010, and the first incumbent to lose a re-election bid for Congress in Hawaii’s 50-year history as a state.

Neither Hanabusa nor Djou faced meaningful competition in their respective party primaries in August, so this matchup’s been anticipated for some time. Djou, a major in the Army reserves, was deployed to Afghanistan. He’s run a low-key campaign since his return while Linda Lingle has attracted most of the headlines and financial backing from mainland Republican groups.

“Djou has kept it close because he came into it with unusually good name recognition for a challenger,” Fitch said. “But all he seems to really be able to do is slow his descent rather than gain on Hanabusa.”

Meantime, Hanabusa now has the advantage of incumbency. Historically, that’s been been particularly valuable in Hawaii even though a Congress stymied by partisan gridlock has extraordinarily low approval ratings. Some incumbents elsewhere are even choosing to portray themselves as reformers or outsiders.

In Hawaii, though, a plurality of respondents — 44 percent — said Hanabusa’s work in Congress these past two years made them more likely to vote for her. Thirty-five percent said her work made them less likely to vote for her, and 17 percent who said it had no impact.

Most of the respondents who said Hanabusa’s work in Congress helped her case indicated they’ll vote for her, and most of those who said her work hurt her case said they’re supporting Djou.

Ultimately, most people said they’re staying with the candidate they supported in 2010.

Of those who said they voted for Djou last time, 94 percent indicated they plan to support him again. Of those who said they voted for Hanabusa last time, 92 percent said they’ll do so again. The reason, then, that the margin has widened from the 6 percent victory in November 2010 to 11 points in the survey is that 54 percent of respondents say they voted for Hanabusa in 2010 versus 40 percent who said they voted for Djou in 2010.

One interpretation of that inconsistency between actual results and the retrospective poll results is that the sample has too many Hanabusa supporters. But part of the explanation is that people sometimes like to say they voted for the winner even if they didn’t, and sometimes alter their answers to fit their current choices to avoid seeming inconsistent.

Demographics Of Support

Despite his deficit, Djou had advantages with some key groups:

  • Self-described moderates backed Djou, 49 percent to 47 percent. Independents — people who said they don’t regularly vote for either Democrats or Republicans — supported him, 70 percent to 27 percent.
  • Djou actually did slightly better with Obama voters than Lingle did, earning 14 percent support to her 11 percent.
  • Djou, who missed part of the campaign while deployed with the Army, led 53 percent to 45 percent among voters who said they had or a member of their immediate family had served active military duty in Iraq or Afghanistan at any time in the past ten years.

But Hanabusa’s support was widespread:

  • She led among voters across all income brackets, with the largest lead (56 percent to 40 percent) among those whose families make less than $50,000 per year and the smallest lead (52 percent to 47 percent) among those whose annual household incomes exceed $150,000.
  • She led widely among the youngest voters (65 percent to 35 percent among respondents aged 18 to 29) and oldest voters (55 percent to 43 percent among respondents aged 65 and older). Djou only led among voters in their 40s, and only by five points.
  • Hanabusa led 58 percent to 39 percent among women, and 50 percent to 47 percent among men.

Gabbard’s Huge Win

In the 2nd Congressional District, Gabbard was on her way to a landslide victory over the little-known Kawika Crowley. That domination included:

  • An 81 percent to 14 percent lead among those who said they’d already voted.
  • Leads of at least 50 points in every county, ranging from 52 points on Kauai to 62 points on the Big Island.
  • Huge advantages among both genders, every age group, every ethnicity, every education level and every income bracket.
  • A 53 percent to 36 percent edge among self-described conservatives and a 42 percent to 42 percent tie among the minority of voters who say they usually vote for Republican candidates.
  • A 44 percent to 43 percent lead among voters who said they’re supporting Mitt Romney, and a 51 percent to 36 percent lead among voters who said they’re supporting Lingle.

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