WASHINGTON — The state that provided President Barack Obama his largest margin of victory in 2008 remains sunny about his economic leadership and is set to again back him in overwhelming numbers.
Obama, a Democrat born and schooled in Honolulu who still vacations on the Windward Coast, leads Republican challenger Mitt Romney 62 percent to 30 percent among likely Hawaii voters, according to The Civil Beat Poll. Three percent said they’ll vote for another candidate and 6 percent said they were undecided. The survey was conducted between Sept. 26 and Sept. 28 and its sample size of 1,648 yielded a margin of error of 2.4 percent.1
Obama leads among both men and women, though slightly more so among women. He leads among all age groups, though slightly more so among voters in their 30s. He leads among all racial and ethnic groups, though more so among Japanese voters and less so among Chinese voters. Obama also holds wide leads among voters at all education levels and income brackets in Hawaii. His support was marginally stronger on the neighbor islands, collectively, than on Oahu.
The poll represents the first independent survey results released for the 2012 presidential race in the Aloha State in nearly a year. The last time the state’s political temperature was taken, Romney was just one of many hypothetical opponents. He eventually won Hawaii’s Republican caucus in March and wrapped up his the party’s nomination shortly thereafter.
Obama’s 32-point advantage, if it held steady through Nov. 6, would actually represent a downward turn for the president, who beat John McCain by more than 45 percent in Hawaii four years ago. But while many across the country are frustrated with the state of the economy and critical of Obama’s role in it, island voters are not yet ready for a change in national leadership.
Asked how they “currently feel about the country’s economy,” 57 percent of respondents said positive versus 40 percent who said negative. That’s a mirror image of the results Civil Beat’s polling partner, Merriman River Group, found in its nationwide survey released this week. In that poll, 59 percent said they’re unhappy with the direction of the economy versus 41 percent who feel positively about it.
Of those in Hawaii who feel good about the economy, 87 percent back Obama versus 7 percent who support Romney. Of those who feel badly about the economy, the split is less dramatic — 64 percent for Romney and 28 percent for Obama.
Civil Beat also dug into economic questions germane not only to the presidential race but also to Congress’ discussion about how to reduce the country’s spending deficit.
Given the choice between across-the-board cuts, including to programs ranging from Social Security to the military, “targeted” cuts to programs like the military and corporate subsidies but not Social Security or healthcare, or no major cuts, 56 percent of respondents chose the “targeted’ cuts, 27 percent chose the deeper, across-the-board cuts, and 5 percent chose no major cuts.
Of those who want to make dramatic budget cuts, 63 percent back Romney versus 28 percent for Obama. Of those who want limited cuts, Obama leads, 83-11.
Given the choice between tax hikes for everybody, tax increases only for those making more than $250,000, or no tax increases at all, 56 percent chose higher taxes for the rich, 21 percent chose no tax increases, and 18 percent chose tax increases for everybody.
Obama leads 83 percent to 10 percent among those who want to tax the wealthy and 55 percent to 38 percent among those who want to raise taxes on everybody. Romney leads 76 percent to 17 percent among those who don’t want any more tax increases.
Asked to choose a solution to the nation’s deficit and budget problems — mostly spending cuts, mostly revenue increases or an equal amount of both approaches — 49 percent said a mix, 32 percent said spending cuts and 8 percent tax increases.
Among those who want a balanced approach, Obama leads 79 percent to 14 percent. Among those who want to focus primarily on spending cuts, Romney leads 63-29. And among the small group who wants to focus on raising taxes, Obama leads 88-3.
Voters who said they feel good about the economy were more likely to favor a balanced approach to decreasing the deficit, while those who are unhappy with the economy said an approach focusing mostly on spending cuts was the way to go.
Obama supporters were also more likely than Romney supporters to say they support the Honolulu rail project, and more likely to rate Hawaii’s public education system as “excellent” or “good.”
The presidential race is expected to have an impact on down-ticket races, particularly the U.S. Senate contest. Linda Lingle has been trying to convince voters she’s a moderate who can work across party lines while Mazie Hirono has tried to tie Lingle to national Republicans.
Hirono’s efforts appear to have worked; Lingle leads 96 percent to 3 percent among those who are backing Romney in Hawaii, but has only been able to convince 11 percent of Obama voters to cross party lines and support her. Hirono gets 85 percent of Obama voters.
Lingle could look to anti-rail Honolulu mayoral candidate Ben Cayetano for a model of how she’d like things to work. Cayetano dominates Kirk Caldwell among Romney voters, 68 percent to 29 percent, and holds his own among Obama voters, trailing only 51 percent to 44 percent. He’s leading Caldwell overall by 9 points.
If Lingle could secure even one-fifth of Obama voters, she’d be that much closer to Hirono. Of course, it probably helps Cayetano that he was a Democrat during his two terms as governor while Lingle was a Republican for her two terms.
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