Civil Beat Poll - Does the Government Treat Native Hawaiians Fairly?

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More than 100 years after the overthrow of the Native Hawaiian government, the rights of the island's indigenous people are still at the top of the conversation.

But voters are split on whether the government is providing enough benefits to Native Hawaiians.

According to The Civil Beat Poll survey of 1,162 registered voters1, 36 percent of respondents said the level of benefits is just right. Twenty-seven percent of voters said Hawaiians get "too many" benefits and 23 percent said "not enough." The margin of error was 2.9 percent.

The poll was conducted in mid-April and comes on the heels of the Hawaii Legislature settling a decades-old $200 million ceded land debt by deeding 25 acres of prime Kakaako real estate to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. The fight for federal recognition continues, and a Native Hawaiian Roll Commission has been created to that end. OHA, a state agency, provides scholarships and small business loans to Native Hawaiians. But the list of those in line for Hawaiian homesteads is still so long that some people die waiting.

Civil Beat asked voters, "How do you feel about the benefits the government provides to Native Hawaiians — does the government provide too many benefits, not enough benefits, or about the right amount?"

Likely voters, registered non-voters and 2008-only voters gave statistically identical responses. The Civil Beat Poll identified some differences between those three voting groups 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)

As you might expect, the minority group in question feels it's not being treated fairly. Of those who identified themselves as Native Hawaiian, 75 percent said the government does not provide enough benefits versus 9 percent who said the government provides too many benefits and 13 percent who said the level of benefits is just right. Hispanic/Latino voters were most likely to agree, and Filipino voters were most likely to say Native Hawaiians get too many benefits.

There were other interesting patterns in the data:

  • Democrats were more likely to say that Hawaiians don't get enough benefits (27 percent) than too many benefits (21 percent), but 40 percent said the level is appropriate. Forty percent of Republicans said Hawaiians get too many benefits, while 33 percent said it's the right amount, and only 11 percent said they don't get enough benefits.
  • Voters aged 18-49 were more likely to support additional Native Hawaiian benefits, while voters 65 and older were least likely to support more benefits.
  • Voters with higher income levels were more likely to say Native Hawaiians already receive too many benefits, while those with lower incomes were more likely to say Hawaiians should get more benefits.

See the full crosstabulations and demographic analysis below.

DISCUSSION: How do you feel about the benefits the government provides to Native Hawaiians — does the government provide too many benefits, not enough benefits, or about the right amount?

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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