Civil Beat Poll - Unwavering Rail Opposition Gives Cayetano Lead

Brian Tseng for Civil Beat

WASHINGTON — Most voters have long since made up their minds about the Honolulu rail project, and their opposition has put Ben Cayetano in good position to become the city's next mayor.

The Civil Beat Poll shows Cayetano holding a 51 percent to 42 percent advantage over Kirk Caldwell with a little more than a month before Election Day. The survey of 1,257 likely general election voters on Oahu was conducted between Sept. 26 and Sept. 28.1 The poll's margin of error is 2.8 percent. Seven percent said they were undecided.

Cayetano was the top vote-getter in the Aug. 11 primary but fell short of the 50-percent-plus-one-vote threshold that would have given him an outright victory. Caldwell has actually closed the gap since the primary, when Cayetano got 44 percent of the vote to 29 percent for the former acting mayor and 25 percent for Mayor Peter Carlisle, who was left out of the two-man runoff.

Cayetano, Hawaii's governor for two terms and an out-of-the-spotlight retiree for the last decade, has been the frontrunner since he jumped into the race in January. His lead is sizable — well outside the margin of error — but nowhere near universal.

Caldwell is neck-and-neck with Cayetano among women, the highly educated and top earners, according to The Civil Beat Poll. He actually leads among voters younger than 30, Democrats and liberals, and those who self-identify as Japanese. So there is a path to victory if certain groups turn out on election day more than have historically.

But Cayetano's advantage comes from the fact that his candidacy has coincided with consistent negative public opinion about the 20-mile rail system he's promised to stop if elected. Rail is without a doubt the central issue of the campaign.

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