Nearly half of Hawaii voters plan to vote “no” on a ballot measure calling for the state to convene a constitutional convention, the first in 40 years.

But when they’re provided with a description of a ConCon that provides more information than just the ballot title, more voters support it than oppose it by a fairly wide margin.

It’s a split decision of sorts, but one that doesn’t bode well for the measure at the ballot box.

Just 26 percent of likely voters surveyed statewide in a new Civil Beat Poll said they will vote “yes” on the ConCon while 46 percent will vote “no” and 20 percent are undecided. Another 8 percent said they didn’t plan to vote on the issue, and those so-called “blank” votes are the same as “no” votes.

But when voters are given information about what a ConCon might actually entail, 47 percent of voters support it while 32 percent oppose it.

“When you give voters neutral details about the ConCon, such as its history and how it works, they are much more likely to support it then if you just present them with the ballot question wording and ask them directly how they are going to vote,” said Seth Rosenthal, opinion research consultant for the Merriman River Group, which conducted the poll.

The Civil Beat Poll surveyed 961 likely voters Oct. 8-12. The sample consisted of 70 percent landlines and 30 percent cellphones.

The ConCon question was polled in two ways: as an issue question to learn how voters feel generally about a constitutional convention, and as a voting question asking whether they would vote “yes” or “no.”

The issue question provided information about a ConCon, including that the chance for the ballot question may come up only once a decade and that any constitutional amendments produced from a ConCon would still need final voter approval.

The results might offer hope for the measure if there was an active campaign to support it and inform voters, but all the money is in the opponents’ camp so far.

For the issue question, 473 likely voters were surveyed. The question had a 4.5 percent margin of error. For the voting question, 488 people were surveyed. The margin of error was 4.4 percent on that one.

Both questions show that about one-fifth of voters either are unsure how they feel about a ConCon, or need more information.

Civil Beat has now polled the ConCon issue three times over the past year. Support has dropped from 67 percent in November 2017 to 47 percent today. Opposition has grown from 14 percent to 32 percent over the same period.

The ConCon question is one of two statewide ballot measures on the general election ballot. The second is a proposed constitutional amendment that asks if the state should have the authority to levy a tax on certain real property to support education. It is also opposed by Hawaii voters, the Civil Beat poll shows.

On the ConCon question, Civil Beat followed up with some poll respondents.

“I don’t have any specific reasons for opposing it,” Shirley Dusendschon of Aiea said of the ConCon. “I just don’t think its correct to have it at this time.”

Dusendschon, a flight attendant, said changing the Hawaii constitution is “a very serious and complicated process. I don’t think we should be spending our tax dollars and our time on it right now, because there are other things the state should be looking at.”

Travis Evans of Pupukea also doesn’t want money spent on a ConCon.

“Every time you get into politics they screw everything up,” he said. “How much is this going to cost? $70 million? Just let them take that money and shred it on the freeway along with the billions they are already spending on rail.”

ConAm Ballot Hawaii vote.
The exact wording of the ConCon ballot question. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The precise cost of a ConCon is not known.

A political action committee supported by Hawaii labor unions and opposed to a ConCon are running television commercials citing the figure of $55 million. Honolulu mediator Peter Adler estimates a ConCon would cost perhaps $20 million, based on previous ConCon costs and estimates.

But spending more taxpayer money is not something Evans, a retiree, wants to see happen.

“If they say they are going to spend it right, you hide your wallet,” he said. “I’ve lived in Hawaii over 50 years and it hasn’t changed a bit. They will go ahead and spend your money.”

Coming Thursday: The race for Hawaii governor.

Civil Beat Poll October 2018 — Constitutional Convention:

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