City Poll Asked Wrong Question About Honolulu Rail

Peter Carlisle
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Peter Carlisle

BY GEORGE L. BERISH – Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle bought a poll for $24,000 that claims the proposed Honolulu Rail project has majority support.  But the poll has two defects so substantial that I believe it makes claims as foolish as they are false.


First, the “margin of error” is surely many multiples of the 3.27% reported.  A 3.27% margin would require a random selection of 100 specific people — preferably from voters who will pay for Rail.  Then it would require obtaining the opinion of exactly those 100 people.

But most government-purchased polls use minimally paid callers to keep calling till they find any 100 people who 1) happen to answer their phone, and 2) have nothing better to do than answer questions of a stranger (which today seems to question their judgment).

Second, the question was as frivolous as these:  Do you favor curing cancer, favor everyone earning more money, favor nicer parks, etc.?

If the Mayor’s goal is serving us, not ruling us, here are two better questions:

1.  “Do you favor improving Hawaii’s roads to provide efficient traffic flow that will materially reduce gasoline consumption, decrease bus time, leave us more time for life, careers and economic production, and reduce vehicle repair costs?”

2.  “How much is your family willing to pay for Rail?
A)    Less than $100/yr;  B) $100 – $250/yr;  C) $251 – $500/yr; or D) More?

I mean the reports purchased by both Mayors tell us Rail is designed to run at a loss forever, and while an honest optimist hope for ‘C’, an unbiased reader would see it is ‘D’.

George L. Berish is a resident of Honolulu