By AUDREY McAVOY
HONOLULU — A new poll says U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono leads former Gov. Linda Lingle by a wide margin in the race to be Hawaii’s next senator.
The poll conducted for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Hawaii News Now shows 57 percent of respondents would vote for Hirono in the general election, while 35 percent would vote for Lingle.
Honolulu market research company Ward Research surveyed 768 likely voters statewide from Oct. 15 to Oct. 22 for the poll, which had a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.
Hirono said she’s humbled by the support shown in the poll, but her campaign isn’t taking anything for granted and urged people to vote.
“What I am hearing across the state is that people want our next U.S. senator to value and honor the commitments made to our kupuna, create educational opportunities for our keiki, and get to work creating jobs,” Hirono said in a statement. “Despite increasingly desperate and negative attacks from mainland special interest groups, the people of Hawaii will not be fooled.”
The congresswoman’s 22-point lead is similar to the 19-point margin she had over Lingle in another Ward Research poll in July. It also mirrors the lead Hirono had against the former governor in polls taken in February this year and May 2011.
The Star-Advertiser published the poll on Monday, one day after it endorsed Hirono, saying she was “a consistent advocate for government actions and policies that serve Hawaii.”
Lingle’s campaign criticized the poll’s methodology, saying Ward Research surveyed a disproportionate number of Democrats and that their own polling shows the race is a statistical dead heat.
Lingle’s pollster, Voter/Consumer Research in Washington, D.C., said Ward surveyed 60 percent Democrats. But Voter/Consumer Research’s breakdown of Hawaii voters shows 44 percent Democrats, 22 percent Republicans and 26 percent independents.
Retired Maj. Gen. Robert G. F. Lee, Lingle’s campaign manager, called the Ward poll “skewed” and said the campaign believes in its plan to win the election.
“Based on incredibly strong debates by Gov. Lingle, our most recent tracking poll shows this race is a statistical dead heat. During the debates, the voters ... were able to see that Mazie Hirono does not have the leadership history and qualifications to be an effective U.S. senator,” Lee said in a statement.
Rebecca Ward, president of Ward Research, told the Star-Advertiser that the poll’s partisan distribution mirrors Hawaii’s voting patterns.
The poll asked voters which party they usually vote with, not whether they consider themselves Democrats. Some of the 60 percent who said they usually vote Democratic would likely describe themselves in other surveys as independents, Ward said.