Polling When No One is Paying Attention

This week Honolulu saw the results of the first two scientific polls for local elections this year. The first, a poll on the Honolulu Mayor’s race, was published earlier last week. The other, on Honolulu’s race for Prosecutor, was released this past Friday morning.

In both cases, there is a fairly high number or respondents who hadn’t decided, or indicated they don’t like any of the candidates.

There’s no denying we’ve all be more than a little preoccupied with the impact of COVID-19 on our families and our communities. Rightly so. So while all the candidates will do their best to spin the results, we should keep in mind the current circumstances when viewing the results.

Honolulu Mayor’s Race

Since his reelection in 2016, Kirk Caldwell’s support has evaporated and a lot of City & County voters are ready for something new. This is supported by Rick Blangiardi’s 6-point-lead over his closest rival, Colleen Hanabusa, the perennial establishment candidate. And his 11-point-lead over Keith Amemiya who has close ties to both Ige and Caldwell.

Still, in this race, which generally draws far more attention than that for Honolulu Prosecutor, there remains a relatively high number of voters who appear yet to have made a decision.

30% of those polled haven’t decided on any of the candidates. Still another 12% don’t like ANY of the choices.

Honolulu Prosecutor’s Race

For really the first time in anyone’s memory, there’s a crowded and arguably competitive race for Honolulu’s next Prosecuting Attorney.

Recent scandals have rocked both the Honolulu Police Department and the Prosecutor’s Office. The current/former Prosecutor is on paid leave pending a federal investigation. It should also be noted that the Acting Prosecutor and candidate, Dwight Nadamoto, had been previously subpoenaed to testify for said investigation.

He’s in third place with just 3% support in Friday’s poll.

Retired Judge Steve Alm currently holds a commanding double-digit lead over his rivals with 21% support from respondents.

However, it is again important to highlight that more than half of all those polled, 54% are “not sure”. And another 12% don’t like any of the choices.

Undecideds and Name Recognition

It’s hard not to think this year’s local election could be one the most important Hawaii has seen in years. Still, it’s clear from these poll results that people aren’t paying attention.

Also, the shelter-in-place response to the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly stifled traditional campaigning: no sign-waving, door knocking, or even fundraising. Campaigns have largely either gone quiet, or have attempted to build support through digital means like social media platforms and more frequent email blasts.

For me, the biggest takeaway from these polls is this: the responses are almost certainly a reflection of nothing more than name recognition.

Blangiardi runs his own TV new station and frequently steps in front of the camera.

Alm, who is a former prosecutor, state judge, and U.S. attorney, has been around for a while and has managed to build up some name recognition over the years.

Still, with the State and County lockdowns beginning to loosen their grips, some degree of “normal” campaigning will likely resume very soon. If it hasn’t already.

My Picks

As these are nothing more than “horse-race” polls, you might expect that they have had zero impact on my own preferences in each of these races.

In the Honolulu Mayor’s race, I remain undecided. So many of the candidates are establishment, business-as-usual types that I cannot get excited about really any of them.

What I can say with certainty is that I will not vote for Blangiardi, Amemiya, or Hanabusa. Period. By one measure or another, each represents the worst of the Hawaii establishment politics of which I have had more than enough.

I will be keeping my eye on Kym Pine and Choon James. I like each of these two women for different reasons. But I will see if either is able to move up before ballots begin to arrive around July 21.

For Honolulu Prosecutor, there is for me a clear and undeniable choice: Jacquie Esser.

I have had the privilege of getting to know this remarkable and determined woman over the last several months. She the only one who isn’t a former prosecutor. She also shares my progressive values on a range of issues.

If you think yourself progressive, I strongly encourage you to check her out: https://www.esserforjustice.com

Please support her. Contribute to her campaign. And if you live on Oahu, put a campaign sign up in your yard and vote for her.

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