Sovereignty poll results should be scrutinized
A poll conducted for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs shows support for sovereignty.
A new public opinion poll on Hawaiian sovereignty continues to show broad support by island residents, but backing of a key ingredient in the Akaka Bill received only a thin majority, raising questions about whether support of the bill itself is based on ignorance or misunderstanding. The survey probably was conducted to counter a revamped federal civil rights advisory committee's expected opposition to the Akaka Bill granting sovereignty to Hawaiians, but it might do more damage than help.
The telephone poll of 380 residents, conducted by Ward Research for the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs, indicated that 70 percent support Hawaiian sovereignty while 18 percent oppose it. A similar poll conducted by Ward Research for OHA two years ago showed support by 68 percent and opposition by 17 percent. It also showed wide majority support for Hawaiian rights, plus federally funded programs and state agencies serving Hawaiians.
But one question posed in the new survey was troublesome: "There has been talk about creating a Hawaiian governing entity that would represent the Hawaiian people in their dealings with the state and the federal government. Do you agree or disagree that an entity of some kind should be formed?"
Actually, there has been more than talk about such a governing body. The Akaka Bill explicitly calls for a "native Hawaiian governing entity to negotiate with federal, state and local governments, and other entities." Only 51 percent of the poll's respondents support it, while 34 percent disagree.
We have criticized a 2005 poll taken by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, which opposes sovereignty, because of a loaded question designed to elicit negative reactions to the Akaka Bill. The newest OHA poll deserves similar scrutiny for a misleading question implying that a Hawaiian governing entity is being talked about but is not part of the Akaka Bill.
Hawaii residents need a clear understanding of the Akaka Bill's potential to help preserve existing Hawaiian benefits that the poll shows are favored by so many.
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