Civil Beat Poll - Assisted Suicide Support Strong

Flickr: Jo Naylor

Hawaii voters support the rights of doctors to help terminally ill patients end their lives by better than a 2-to-1 margin, according to The Civil Beat Poll.

Liberal, well-educated and wealthier voters were most likely to say physician-assisted suicide — also known as "death with dignity" — should be legal, the survey of 1,162 registered voters1 found.

Proponents have argued that death with dignity is already legal in Hawaii. Doctors and have formed an aid-in-dying advisory council and are already offering to help terminally ill patients end their lives.

Past attempts by the Hawaii Legislature to clarify the legal status of assisted suicide have failed. They've been opposed primarily by religious groups like the Catholic Church. As of today, death with dignity is legal in Oregon, Washington and Montana.

(For more about the status of aid in dying in Hawaii, read Chad Blair's two-part interview with Compassion & Choices: A Conversation About Aid In Dying In Hawaii and How Other States Treat Aid In Dying)

Civil Beat asked voters, "Do you believe that doctors should be allowed to help terminally ill patients end their lives?"

Answers from likely voters, registered non-voters and 2008-only voters were, statistically speaking, indistinguishable. The Civil Beat Poll identified three local issues for which the three voting groups had different opinions as part of its look at how Hawaii might be different if more people voted. (For more about the attitudes of voters versus non-voters, read this earlier story: Civil Beat Poll - Hawaii Opposes Gay Marriage, Marijuana, Rail)

Support split down party and ideological lines. Liberals/progressives (79 percent to 12 percent) and Democrats (65 percent to 21 percent) were in favor, while conservatives (43 percent to 44 percent) and Republicans (46 percent to 38 percent) were far less sure. Moderates and independents aligned closer to the liberal/Democrat side of the equation.

Support for assisted suicide also grew with increased education level. Those with no degree were 43 percent in favor of allowing doctors to help terminally ill patients end their lives versus 14 percent opposed, with 43 percent answering "not sure." Those with high school degrees were split 56 percent in favor and 28 percdent opposed. The answers from college-educated voters were 60 percent yes and 24 percent no; graduate-degree-holders were 62 percent yes and 26 percent no.

There were some other interesting findings:

  • Voters with a household income above $100,000 favor assisted suicide 66 percent versus 22 percent opposed, while those with lower incomes had lower levels of support.
  • Men (62 percent in favor) were more likely to support assisted suicide than women (54 percent).

See the full crosstabulations and demographic analysis below.

DISCUSSION: Do you believe that doctors should be allowed to help terminally ill patients end their lives?

Demographics By Voter Type

1. ABOUT THE POLL: Civil Beat surveyed a stratified random sample of 1,162 registered voters in Hawaii on the evenings of April 15-17 and April 22, 2012, using interactive voice response technology (touch-tone polling).

The sampling margin of error is +/- 2.9 percentage points. The margin of error indicates that in 95 percent of samples of this size, the results will be within +/- 2.9 percent of the actual percentage in the full population of registered voters.

The sample was stratified based on publicly available records of past voting behavior. The stratified sub-samples included 567 Likely Voters (margin of error, +/- 4.1 percentage points), 423 registered Non-Voters (margin of error, +/- 4.8 percentage points), and 172 voters who participated in the 2008 General Election but have not otherwise voted (margin of error, +/- 7.5 percentage points).

Poll results were weighted for gender and to match the population ratio of Likely Voters, Non-Voters, and 2008-only Voters. Statistical differences between the sub-samples were determined using chi-square tests of independence with a significance level of p < .05. All statistical comparisons disregarded group differences in the frequency of "not sure" responses. Some columns may not sum to 100 percent due to rounding.

The poll was conducted by Civil Beat working with Merriman River Group, a full-service consulting organization specializing in opinion research, election management, and communication.

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