Editor’s note: This is part of a Civil Beat series on the positions and attitudes of voters versus non-voters in Hawaii. Read previous articles in the series:

Hawaii voters across the board oppose same-sex marriage, legalizing marijuana and rail. But those who vote regularly feel differently from those who don’t, according to The Civil Beat Poll.

The survey of 1,162 registered voters1 shows that 2008-only voters — younger and more liberal than others presumably because they were lured to the polls by Hawaii-born Democratic President Barack Obama — make up the most politically unique group.

But a key takeaway from the poll is that likely voters, non-voters and 2008-only voters are surprisingly similar on most matters. We wanted to find out if more people voting would fundamentally change Hawaii, and the answer appears to be no.

Voters and non-voters fell on the same side of all eight key Hawaii issues we asked about in our poll, and the differences between the groups were statistically insignificant on five of them — plastic bag regulation, death with dignity, undersea energy cable, Native Hawaiian rights and development vs. preservation.

We’ll have articles on the results for those questions later this week. Here are the comparisons for the three issues where we did see at least small differences between the voter groups:

Same-Sex Marriage

The national push for marriage equality started right here in Hawaii 20 years ago, when the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled the state couldn’t restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples without a compelling reason. In response, traditional marriage advocates amended the Hawaii Constitution in 1998, and it took advocates more than a decade to pass civil unions legislation that gives same-sex couples the same rights as marriage.

But some say the state is still discriminating against gay couples, and at least one lesbian couple is suing for full equality. The Abercrombie administration is taking both sides in the lawsuit, and now religious organizations are joining the case to defend the existing law.

Meanwhile, Hawaii voters are still opposed to gay marriage.

Civil Beat asked, “Do you believe that same-sex couples should or should not have the legal right to get married?” Of all registered Hawaii voters, 37 percent said yes they should, 51 percent said no they shouldn’t and 12 percent were not sure. The margin of error was 2.9 percent.

The poll found that non-voters oppose same-sex marriage rights more than do likely voters and 2008-only voters. The non-voters were 57 opposed versus 27 percent in favor, while 2008-only voters were nearly split at 44 percent opposed and 43 percent in favor.

Same Sex Marriage Likely Voters Non-Voters 2008-Only All Registered
Yes 40% 27% 43% 37%
No 49% 57% 44% 51%
Not Sure 11% 16% 13% 12%
Total 100% 100% 100% 100%

The political tide is beginning to turn, and a few more years might mean the difference as the young voter who support it replace their elders who oppose it.

Younger voters — those between 18 and 49 years old — are most likely to support marriage equality, 50 percent to 43 percent. Those 50 to 64 years old are opposed, 40 percent to 48 percent. And those 65 years old or older were most strongly opposed, 35 percent to 54 percent.

Some other notable findings:

  • Women (41 percent yes, 47 percent no) were more supportive than men (35 percent yes, 56 percent no).
  • Educated voters were more supportive than less educated voters — 49 percent of those with graduate degrees said yes, versus 37 percent of college grads, 33 percent of high school grads, and 18 percent of those with no degree.
  • Hispanic/Latino (57 percent) and Japanese (43 percent) voters were the two ethnic groups to be more supportive than not. Filipinos (19 percent) and Chinese (21 percent) were most strongly opposed to marriage equality.
  • Liberals/progressives and Democrats were more likely than conservatives and Republicans to support same-sex marriage.


Despite Hawaii’s reputation as the bluest of blue states and friendly terrain for pot proponents, efforts here to make marijuana legal have gone up in smoke. Law enforcement advocates have led the charge in opposition.

In recent years, even attempts to expand the medical marijuana program by allowing dispensaries haven’t passed. As of today, those with prescriptions from their doctors need to find their own supply.

Voters are opposed to legalizing marijuana, the poll found.

Civil Beat asked, “Do you think that Hawaii should make it legal to possess and use of small amounts of marijuana?” Of all registered Hawaii voters, 34 percent said yes and 57 percent said no. The poll found that 2008-only voters are more likely to support legalizing small amounts of marijuana than are likely voters and non-voters.

Legalize Marijuana Likely Voters Non-Voters 2008-Only All Registered
Yes 34% 30% 42% 34%
No 58% 57% 46% 57%
Not Sure 8% 13% 12% 10%
Total 100% 100% 100% 100%

Age was again a key indicator of support. Those between 18 and 49 years old supported legalizing marijuana, 44 percent to 42 percent. For those between 50 and 64 years old, 42 percent favored and 51 percent opposed, and for those 65 years old and older, the split was 29 percent yes and 64 percent no.

Some other notes:

  • Men (41 percent yes, 51 percent no) were more likely to support legalization than women (29 percent yes, 61 percent no).
  • Caucasians (45 percent) and Latino/Hispanics (46 percent) were most likely to say yes. Chinese (15 percent) and Filipinos (16 percent) were most likely to say no.
  • Maui voters supported legalization, 51 percent to 41 percent, and Big Island was split, 47-47. Oahu voters opposed, 30 percent yes versus 60 percent no.
  • Liberals/progressives and Democrats were more likely than conservatives and Republicans to support legalizing marijuana.


Rail continues to be a divisive issue among Oahu voters less than four months before the crucial mayoral primary election.

The new survey, conducted April 15-17 and April 22, comes about two months after Civil Beat’s previous poll, conducted on Feb. 26 and 27. Both found eroding support for rail, though the new survey includes registered voters who don’t regularly vote.

In both polls, Oahu voters were asked, “Do you support or oppose construction of the 20-mile elevated rail project on Oahu from East Kapolei to the Ala Moana shopping center?”

The February poll of likely Oahu voters found 34 percent in favor and 55 percent opposed. That hasn’t shifted, with the split of likely Oahu voters in the April poll at 36 percent in favor and 55 percent opposed.

Interestingly, Oahu’s non-voters support the rail project slightly more than the likely voters do, but presumably young and liberal 2008-only voters were strongly opposed.

Rail Likely Voters Non-Voters 2008-Only All Registered
Yes 36% 39% 29% 36%
No 55% 48% 56% 53%
Not Sure 9% 13% 15% 10%
Total 100% 100% 100% 100%

For more information about rail support, see our series from the previous poll:

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