Voters across Hawaii support the construction of underwater cables between some of the islands to transmit electricity from wind, geothermal or solar, according to The Civil Beat Poll.

Overall, 56 percent of registered voters support an interisland energy cable versus 21 percent who oppose it and 23 percent who said they’re not sure.

The survey of 1,162 registered voters1 shows support is strongest — 59 percent versus 18 percent opposed — on Oahu. The Gathering Isle would presumably be the consumer of clean energy produced on neighbor islands. Outlying counties also support the proposal, but far less fervently.

The Hawaii Senate on Tuesday revived a controversial bill that would establish a regulatory framework for an undersea cable, which would help lead to financing and development. The issue faces a final Senate floor vote on Thursday.

Critics of the measure have said cables between the islands would turn neighbor islands into industrial areas serving Honolulu’s population and that Oahu should look more closely at conservation measures first.

The poll did not break out support by island because statistically speaking, sample sizes in the rural communities of Molokai and Lanai — which have been proposed as potential sites for massive wind farms — would have been too small to use.

The survey asked registered voters, “Do you support or oppose Hawaii’s plan to construct underwater cables between some of the islands to transmit electricity from wind, geothermal, solar, and other power sources?”

Likely voters, registered non-voters and 2008-only voters gave, statistically speaking, identical responses. The Civil Beat Poll attempted to discern differences between the voting groups and hoped to see how Hawaii might be different if more people voted. (For more about the positions of voters versus non-voters, read this earlier story: Civil Beat Poll – Hawaii Opposes Gay Marriage, Marijuana, Rail)

Honolulu voters support the undersea cable 59 to 18 percent, while voters in both Maui County and Hawaii County were split 45 percent in favor and 34 percent opposed. Interestingly, Kauai County aligned almost exactly with Honolulu. Kauai, known as the “separate kingdom,” has its own energy co-op that is not part of the Hawaiian Electric Industries company that includes HECO on Oahu, HELCO on the Big Island and MECO on Maui.

There were other noteworthy findings in the data:

  • Liberals/progressives and Democrats were more likely to support the undersea cable than conservatives and Republicans.
  • High-income respondents were more likely to support the cable than lower-income voters.
  • Men were more likely than women to support an undersea cable, though women were not much more likely to oppose it. The difference comes from the higher percentage of women who admitted to being unsure of their preference.
  • Registered voters who did not obtain a high school degree were just as likely as their better-educated counterparts to oppose the cable, but far less likely to support it. Again, the difference comes from a higher rate of “not sure” responses.

See the full crosstabulations and demographic analysis below.

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