Saturday, October 31, 1998

Star-Bulletin, Hawaii News 8 Poll

55% favor ban
on same-sex

But a poll also finds confusion
on what 'yes' and 'no' votes mean

By Mike Yuen


A majority of Hawaii voters support the proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, according to a poll conducted this week for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and NBC Hawaii News 8.

But the results stand in sharp contrast to another statewide survey for the two that was taken just two weeks ago. That survey showed the constitutional amendment being voted down by a wide margin.

Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research Inc., which conducted the polls, attributed the vastly differing results to voter confusion on what "yes" and "no" votes mean.

In the most recent poll, conducted Wednesday and Thursday, 55 percent said they were in favor of the measure that would give the Legislature the authority to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, while 35 percent were opposed. Ten percent said they were undecided.

The earlier survey, taken Oct. 16-19, found that 62 percent opposed the anti-gay marriage amendment, while 25 percent were in favor. Thirteen percent were undecided.

Both polls carried a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points. Both surveys involved telephone interviews with registered voters -- 406 in the most recent poll, and 425 in the one done earlier.


Del Ali, Mason-Dixon senior vice president, noted that in the earlier poll, 73 percent said they found the wording of the measure confusing. Twenty-six percent didn't.

The amendment asks, "Shall the Constitution of the state of Hawaii be amended to specify that the Legislature shall have the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples?"

In the latest survey, voters were told that a "yes" vote means they are in favor of changing the Constitution so that lawmakers will have the power to forbid same-sex marriage, while a "no" vote means they want the Constitution to remain the same and have the same-sex marriage issue decided in the courts.

"The confusing nature of the ballot question caused some voters to vote "no" in our last poll, thinking that they were voting against gay marriage," Ali said. No explanation of the amendment was given in that poll.

Previous statewide surveys commissioned by the Star-Bulletin, which simply asked registered voters if they approved or disapproved of same-gender marriages, consistently showed that large majorities -- as high as 70 percent -- rejected homosexual unions.


Jennifer Diesman, a spokeswoman for Save Traditional Marriage-'98, which is leading the yes-vote effort, said the latest poll is in sync with her group's internal surveys. She echoed Ali's sentiments that the wording of the ballot is counterintuitive -- a "yes" vote means no to same-sex marriage.

Jackie Young, campaign director for Protect Our Constitution, said the latest results "are within the ballpark" of the no-vote coalition's numbers. "We seem to be gaining," she said.

David Smith, senior strategist for the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay-rights group, believes the mid-October result against the amendment was partly a result of his side's good showing in an Oct. 16 televised debate.

He also attributed it to the volatility of the issue and the competing messages that voters must sort out.

"Since the primary our internal polling has been all over the map, back and forth consistently," Smith said.

The latest poll found that 59 percent of men and 51 percent of women favor the anti-gay marriage amendment, while 34 percent of men and 36 percent of women are against it.

Same-sex marriage:
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