State Senate President Colleen Hanabusa holds a five-point lead over incumbent Congressman Charles Djou in the 1st Congressional District race, according to a new Civil Beat poll.

Hanabusa is at 49.1 percent to 44.2 percent for Djou, with 6.7 percent undecided, an automated telephone poll of 609 likely voters found. The survey was conducted Oct. 11 by Aloha Vote, a Hawaii subsidiary of Merriman River Group (MRG), a Connecticut research organization that also polled the 1st Congressional District special election in May and the primary election in September for Civil Beat. The margin of error is +/- 4.0 percent.

Three weeks before their rematch on Nov. 2, this time without a second candidate to split the Democratic vote the way Hanabusa and Ed Case did in the May 22 special election, it appears that Hanabusa is doing what she needed to do after that contest — consolidate Democratic support.

Djou won the special election to complete the term of governor candidate Neil Abercrombie with 39.4 percent of the vote vs. 30.8 percent for Hanabusa and 27.6 percent for Case. Case immediately dropped out of the September primary and threw his support to Hanabusa, setting the stage for the November showdown.

The result, unlike in the governor’s race, where supporters of defeated former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann have jumped to the Republican candidate, James “Duke” Aiona, by a 2-1 margin, is that Hanabusa is picking up her opponent’s supporters.

Sixty-six percent of the people who voted for Case in the special election are now voting for Hanabusa, with 26 percent opting for Djou.

“The thing that stands out is that unlike the Hannemann supporters, who are splitting for the Republican, Hanabusa is holding on to the Case supporters,” said Seth Rosenthal, Merriman River Group’s polling director. “The Democrats are mostly coming home to Hanabusa.”

Hanabusa is getting 77 percent of Democrats. Djou is getting 92 percent of Republicans, and two-thirds of independents. But there are so many Democrats in Hawaii that she’s still holding on to the lead, Rosenthal said.

Other findings from the poll:

  • Three of the five issues offered by the poll as the main reason to support either candidate earned double-digit support: Economy/jobs was No. 1, with 39.3 percent of respondents picking it as their central issue; civil unions/social issues was next, with 23.4 percent; and “having the same views on the size and power of government” third at 16.5 percent. Cultural background and energy/environment both scored in single digits. While the candidates are almost tied on the economy, those who picked civil unions/social issues as their main reason for voting for a candidate chose Hanabusa by a 2-1 margin and those who picked the same views on government power selected Djou by a 3-1 margin. “It’s the liberals who are voting on social issues now,” Rosenthal said. People picking the size and power of government tended to identify themselves as members of the Tea Party, a new wing of the Republican Party representing voters especially angry about government spending and growth.
  • Djou is getting the support of 21 percent of voters who approve of Obama, with Hanabusa getting only 4 percent of those who disapprove. “They’re people who like the president but think Congress is terrible,” Rosenthal said of the Obama supporters voting for Djou. “People in general think Congress is worse than the president.”
  • In a race with a strong female candidate, the question arises whether her gender is helping Hanabusa. The poll found that there’s little difference in the spread Abercrombie has over Aiona with women, 6 percentage points, and the spread Hanabusa has over Djou, 8 percentage points. In this case, it appears that her party affiliation is more important than her gender, Rosenthal said.
  • Hanabusa, a Japanese American, is doing better with people of her own background, just as Djou, of Chinese descent, is doing better with voters who share his background. But again, it appears to be more a party issue than a race issue among Japanese Americans, Rosenthal said. It’s a 55-37 split among Japanese Americans for Congress, and 56-35 among the same group for governor. Chinese Americans, on the other hand, appear to be opting for Djou more strongly than they are for Aiona, 59-29 in the Congressional race and 54-46 in the governor race.

COMING FRIDAY: Civil Beat poll results on the Board of Education constitutional amendment.

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