In his tumultuous first months in office, President Donald Trump has made little headway in winning the hearts and minds of Hawaii residents.
The real estate tycoon-turned-chief executive has a 59 percent disapproval rating from respondents to a Civil Beat Poll of state voters.
By contrast, 63 percent of respondents have a positive opinion of former President Barack Obama five months after he left the White House.
But the survey suggests that there’s a glimmer of hope for Trump: A small but enthusiastic base of supporters in Hawaii hasn’t lost faith in him.
In fact, Trump’s approval rating, at 32 percent, can be seen as an improvement over his Election Day performance in November, when he managed to pull in only 29.4 percent of votes cast in the islands.
Trump has poll respondents like Robert Pavau, a 50-year-old Lanai resident, to thank for that.
Pavau approves of Trump’s performance so far in his young presidency, even though he didn’t back his candidacy.
“I don’t like the character of the guy himself,” said Pavau, who lost his job as a hunting guide several years ago. “But I do like some of his policy promises like the stuff on immigration. I do think those things need to be cleaned up throughout the country.”
Matt Fitch, executive director of Merriman River Group, which conducted The Civil Beat Poll, cautioned that Trump’s vote count from November isn’t necessarily comparable to the poll results, given that four candidates were vying for the White House then.
But Fitch noted that 67 percent of self-described moderates disapprove of Trump’s job performance.
“He’s a polarizing figure. So it’s not surprising that the liberals are 85 percent against him,” Fitch said. “And it’s not surprising that he has a 69 percent positive rating among the conservatives,” Fitch said. “But he’s lost the moderates completely — to the extent he ever had them. That’s eye-popping.”
The latest Civil Beat Poll is based on telephone interviews conducted May 18-24 with 956 registered voters statewide. The survey, which included 629 voters on Oahu, sampled 67 percent landlines and 33 percent cellphones, and has a margin of error of 3.2 percent.
The results show that, when it comes to opinions about Trump’s stance on immigration, Hawaii voters aren’t as critical as they are about the president himself.
Still, a majority — 53 percent — of respondents oppose Trump’s travel ban — which would have suspended all refugee resettlements and temporarily barred citizens of six Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States — while 35 percent support it.
Meanwhile, 45 percent of respondents disapprove of the Trump administration’s threatened crackdown on hundreds of “sanctuary jurisdictions” across the country, while 36 percent approve of it.
Both Trump policies have been mired in legal challenges.
The case is now pending in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard oral arguments last month but has not indicated when it will rule.
In late April, a federal judge in San Francisco also issued another injunction against the Trump administration, ruling that its threatened defunding of sanctuary jurisdictions overstepped Congress’ fiscal authority.
“The Constitution vests the spending powers in Congress, not the president, so the order cannot constitutionally place new conditions on federal funds,” U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick wrote.
A day after Orrick’s ruling, the Honolulu City Council voted to join the sanctuary movement, adopting a resolution that urges the city to limit its cooperation with the federal crackdown on immigration.
The Trump administration has also been beset by a constant stream of upheaval in other areas — such as the firing of James Comey amid the FBI’s investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the election.
In Hawaii, a majority of poll respondents appear to have already made up their mind about the Russia investigation, with 51 percent suspecting that either the Trump campaign or the president himself colluded with the Russians.
Only 28 percent of respondents dismiss the allegations, while 21 percent remain unsure.
Still, Trump supporters like Mike Rains, a Makiki resident, are standing by him.
Rains, who describes himself as “semi-retired” and works part time at Walmart, said the biggest fault of Trump is his propensity for inflammatory rhetoric.
“He’s not a politician, and that’s part of his problem. He could be more skilled in the way he puts things,” Rains said. “But I agree with most of his policies. And I don’t mind that he’s not a politician.”
Coming Monday: Voters weigh in on Hawaii’s congressional delegation, including some distinct thoughts on Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and her Syria trip.