Mufi Hannemann won the Honolulu mayor’s office twice in nonpartisan races. Neil Abercrombie won the congressional seat representing Honolulu 10 straight times in partisan races.

Now that they’re facing off for the Democratic nomination for governor, Hannemann’s history may be coming back to haunt him, according to an analysis of a new Civil Beat poll on the Sept. 18 primary race.

The automated telephone poll of 1,226 likely primary voters poll found Abercrombie has opened a wide lead, 48-31 percent.

“Hannemann supporters are less likely to vote in a Democratic primary,” said Matt Fitch, executive director of the research firm that conducted the poll for Civil Beat. “They’re the non-Democrats.”

The poll, conducted by Aloha Vote, found that voters who identify themselves as Democrats pick Abercrombie over Hannemann by a 2-1 margin, 61 percent to 29 percent. The gap narrows with independents, 43-32 percent, but that’s still a comfortable edge, well beyond the poll’s margin of error of 2.75 percent. Hannemann only beats Abercrombie with Republican voters, 40-23 percent.


The poll’s news is good for Abercrombie and dismal for Hannemann, who has stumbled in the campaign by making himself an issue with attacks on his opponent that have backfired and drawn the criticism of the state’s leading Democrat, Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, and other leaders.

The poll found that Abercrombie has broad support. He leads with both women and men, with 47 percent of women supporting Abercrombie versus 31 percent for Hannemann. With men the gap was even wider, with 52 percent backing Abercrombie and 30 percent Hannemann.


Hannemann had more Tea Party supporters, 38 percent to 27 percent. But even among Pacific Islanders, Hannemann, who has Samoan ancestry, is trailing, with 44 percent supporting Abercrombie and 35 percent for Hannemann. Abercrombie beats Hannemann with voters of every ethnic group, including the key Japanese-American voters. He crushes Hannemann among white voters, more than 2-1.

Hannemann’s support among religious groups reinforces the problem he faces in a Democratic primary. The only religious groups he wins are Evangelicals, by almost 2-1, and Mormons, by an even wider margin. The problem is those two groups are not associated with successful Democratic campaigns.

In terms of how voters identify themselves on the political spectrum, Abercrombie blows out Hannemann with self-identified liberals, by more than 3-1. He beats him handily with moderates, 49 percent to 34 percent. Only self-identified conservatives supported Hannemann over Abercrombie, 41 percent to 26 percent.


Geographically, Hannemann is losing on Oahu, where he’s won two mayoral elections. Abercrombie’s support is at 51 percent, to 27 for Hannemann. Hannemann does better on the neighbor islands, but still trails, with 37 percent compared to Abercrombie’s 44 percent.


The No. 1 reason voters say they back Abercrombie is Hannemann’s negative campaign tactics.

While 17 percent of Hannemann supporters claim the No. 1 reason they support him is his criticism of Abercrombie, it appears that the former congressman is being helped by the attacks, with 31 percent saying they’re on his side because they view the Hannemann attacks as unfair.

Education is the other major issue in the election, and it perhaps separates them the most.

The Civil Beat poll asked one question about the candidates’ plans for reforming education in Hawaii. “One candidate proposes giving greater authority to local school administrators, while the other candidate has suggested that the Department of Education superintendent be given greater statewide authority. Which proposal,” we asked, “do you agree with more?”

The divide on this issue turned out to be huge. Fully 55 percent of respondents sided with local control, Abercrombie’s approach. Just 14 percent wanted to strengthen central authority, Hannemann’s approach. About 30 percent were unsure.

The majority that support local control are supporting Abercrombie by a 2-1 margin (54-27) over Hannemann. Hanneman wins the people who favor state control, but it’s a smaller margin (44-36) and a much smaller pool.

The two candidates have diametrically opposite views on civil unions, with Abercrombie saying he would have signed the bill giving same-sex unions the same rights and responsibilities as marriage that Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed in July. In another example of how Hannemann is drawing the more conservative voters, 21 percent of his backers cited his stance on civil unions as their primary reason, while just 14 percent did the same for Abercrombie.

Ultimately, said Fitch, Hannemann’s support is softer.

“Abercrombie is getting the more traditional voters who pay more attention to politics,” said Fitch. “Hannemann has a big problem. I don’t see how he wins this thing short of a huge turnout that doesn’t appear to be materializing anywhere.”

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