Sovereignty polls not all created equal
Akaka Bill foes contend that the measure is not supported by most Hawaii residents.
OPPONENTS of Hawaiian sovereignty responded to an opinion poll indicating the measure's popularity with their own poll that they contend contradicts it. However, their poll showing a plurality of Hawaii residents oppose sovereignty -- cited in letters to the editor
and a "Gathering Place" column
on the opposite page -- seems worded in a way to produce such a result.
In 2003, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which advocates the Akaka Bill, hired Ward Research, a professional polling company, to survey public opinion about the bill.
The question was stated: "The Akaka-Stevens bill proposes that Hawaiians be formally recognized as the indigenous people of Hawaii, giving them the same federal status as 560 Native American and Alaska Native tribes already recognized by the U.S. government. Do you think that Hawaiians should be recognized by the U.S. as a distinct group, similar to the special recognition given to Native Americans and Alaska Natives?"
Eighty-six percent of the 303 native Hawaiians polled said yes, and 78 percent of the 301 non-Hawaiian respondents stated support. Other questions regarding Hawaiian self-governance and creation of a Hawaiian government to deal with the state and federal governments received similar support.
In 2005, the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, which opposes Hawaiian sovereignty, surveyed 10,000 Hawaii residents and posed the question: "The Akaka Bill, now pending in Congress, would allow native Hawaiians to create their own government not subject to all the same laws, regulations and taxes that apply to other citizens of Hawaii. Do you want Congress to approve the Akaka Bill?" Twenty percent said they support it, 41 percent said they do not and 39 percent gave no response.
The question embodied the negative assertion, refuted by the bill's sponsors, that the bill would make Hawaiians immune from state and federal taxes and laws. As state Attorney General Mark Bennett has stated emphatically, "In fact, native Hawaiians as individuals, as well as the native Hawaiian governing entity, would remain subject to the Constitution and laws of both the United States and Hawaii."
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