Less than three weeks from Election Day, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell leads challenger Charles Djou 48 percent to 41 percent, according to The Civil Beat Poll.
The Oahu-only poll found that 9 percent of surveyed voters were still unsure who they will vote for, while 2 percent plan to sit out the mayoral election.
Voters identified rail as the issue that most influences their choice for mayor, ahead of trust, cost of living and affordable housing, and homelessness.
The behind-schedule, over-budget Honolulu rail project, currently pegged at a total cost of $8.6 billion to complete, has dominated the mayoral contest.
The poll also showed that Democrat Hillary Clinton has a wide lead over Republican Donald Trump in the presidential election, 56 percent to 25 percent, among Oahu voters.
Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein polled in low single digits.
Another 14 percent said they were either undecided or would vote for another candidate.
The presidential race has been a dramatic up-and-down battle for more than a year.
But Trump’s sinking poll numbers nationwide and his recent claims that the election is “rigged” could “really hurt Djou,” said Matt Fitch, executive director of Merriman River Group, which conducted the poll for Civil Beat.
Even though the mayor’s race is nonpartisan, Djou is a well-known Republican and Caldwell a well-known Democrat.
“Hillary Clinton is not picking up many voters, either undecided ones or Trump supporters, but he is repelling voters who may now stay home,” Fitch said. “His turnout operation could really lay an egg.”
Trump took 43 percent of the vote in the islands’ GOP presidential caucus in March. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was second with 32 percent, followed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (13 percent) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (10 percent).
A few weeks later, Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator, defeated Clinton, the former secretary of state, 70 percent to 30 percent in Hawaii Democrats’ presidential preference poll.
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Civil Beat surveyed a random sample of 832 registered voters on Oahu from Oct. 10 to Oct. 13 using interactive voice response technology, or touch-tone polling. The margin of error for the full sample is 3.4 percentage points.
Cellphones were dialed by agents who asked respondents whether they were willing to participate in a recorded survey. Respondents who gave consent were then patched through to the same recorded survey that was sent to landlines.
Voters reached by cellphone comprised 32 percent of those surveyed, while voters with landlines totaled 68 percent.
Fitch said Oahu voters backing Trump are not the same as his mainland supporters, who tend to be white and from lower income groups. The Civil Beat Poll shows the GOP nominee attracting Native Hawaiians and voters from higher income brackets.
Clinton polls much higher on Oahu than her opponent among white, Japanese-Americans and Filipino-Americans, as well as with female voters.
In the mayoral contest, about half of voters said they had a positive opinion of both Caldwell and Djou, while about 40 percent viewed each of them negatively.
Djou, a former Republican state legislator and U.S. representative, did best among voters who identified as Republicans or moderate-to-conservative. Caldwell, a former Democratic legislator, did best those who identified as Democrats or liberal-to-progressive.
When Civil Beat polled the mayor’s race in late July, Djou lead Caldwell 42 percent to 33 percent. A third candidate, former mayor Peter Carlisle, polled at 9 percent, while eight other candidates were not polled.
On primary election night Aug. 13, however, Caldwell edged Djou 43.7 percent to 42.8 percent with Carlisle third at 9.2 percent. Because neither Caldwell nor Djou earned more than 50 percent of the vote, they moved on to a general election runoff.
“Certainly, Djou underperformed relative to our poll in the primary, or our poll underestimated Caldwell’s support,” said Fitch. “The takeaway we saw was that, although the primary was close, Caldwell did better among early voters in the poll, and what ended up happening is Djou was not able to hold onto voters who said they were going to vote for him on Election Day. That did not materialize.”
Fitch added, “I think what happened on primary day is something that you see over and over. The more conservative candidate or the Republican struggles on Election Day. They tend to hit their early voting targets, those who already voted.”
“But the turnout process for liberal and more progressive and Democratic candidates is just superior in Hawaii,” he said. “Djou, relying on a good Election Day turnout, may not get it.”
Coming Thursday: The Civl Beat poll asks Oahu voters how they feel about the rail project. Should it be completed? And how should we pay for it all?
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