- Special Projects
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has the highest approval rating among Hawaii’s top leaders, according to the Civil Beat Poll.
In a survey of voters statewide, 61 percent said they have a positive opinion of the congresswoman.
She is viewed even more positively (69 percent) by the voters of the 2nd Congressional District, which Gabbard has represented since January 2013.
The only major politician with Hawaii ties that polls better than Gabbard is the Oahu-born ex-president, Barack Obama. Sixty-four percent of voters surveyed like the 44th POTUS.
Civil Beat polled 967 registered voters May 3-5. The poll, which was conducted on both landlines (68 percent) and cell phones (32 percent), has a 3.2 percentage point margin of error.
“We haven’t lived in Hawaii long, only a few years, so I don’t know a lot about her,” said Elizabeth Dowling, formerly of Boston and now living in Kailua-Kona. “But my impressions have always been favorable. She comes across as very honest. I think she is moderately liberal, but still I feel that she has traditional and conservative values.”
Dowling added, “I like what I see about her from a socially responsive perspective. I think she’s a very bright woman. She just instills confidence.”
Paul Olszewski of Mililani also likes Gabbard.
“One, she’s a veteran,” he said. “Two, she’s not done anything stupid like the other Democrats. She does her job and doesn’t really seem like she’s there for the limelight like the others. Take Colleen Hanabusa — she can’t make her mind up about what job she wants. Tulsi’s doing her job.”
While Gabbard is associated with the Bernie Sanders progressive wing of the Democratic Party, the poll indicates she has some bipartisan appeal in Hawaii. About half of those surveyed who identified as either conservative or Republican view her in a positive light.
Gabbard’s poll performance also offers a contrast from her 2017 Civil Beat poll numbers, when her approval ratings plunged to around 50 percent. She generated quite a bit of national controversy last year by traveling secretly to Syria to meet with Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad, in what she described as an attempted peace parley.
Also viewed well by voters are U.S. Sens. Mazie Hirono (59 percent) and Brian Schatz (54 percent). Like Gabbard, Hirono is up for re-election this year. Schatz is not.
Of the state’s four members in Congress, only Rep. Colleen Hanabusa failed to crack the 50th percentile: 44 percent have a positive opinion of her compared to 34 percent who hold a negative view.
“Regarding Hanabusa, she’s in a competitive election,” said Matt Fitch, executive director of Merriman River Group, which conducted the poll for Civil Beat. “She is drawing fire here and there, some of it from the left, so that may suppress her numbers a bit. There are always higher negatives when someone is taking potshots at you.”
Fitch added, “But Hanabusa does not have bad numbers. She is doing better than her opponent.”
That she is.
Hanabusa is leaving Congress in a bid to unseat Gov. David Ige in the Democratic primary Aug. 11. Voters were divided evenly on the incumbent governor: 38 percent positive, 38 percent negative.
On Tuesday, the Civil Beat Poll had Hanabusa leading Ige 37 percent to 31 percent, with former state Sen. Clayton Hee at 11 percent and 15 percent of voters undecided.
Also dragging in popularity is Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, who posted similar statewide numbers to Ige’s: 38 percent positive, 39 percent negative. For Oahu alone, the positive-negative numbers are 40 percent to 46 percent, respectively.
“He is right around 50-50, or pretty close to it,” said Fitch, who called the Caldwell numbers unsurprising. “With all respect to Schatz, Hirono and Gabbard, being a mayor is a lot harder than being a legislator.”
Caldwell is not on the ballot in 2018.
Civil Beat also polled Hawaii voters on President Donald Trump. Thirty-three percent said they had a positive opinion of him, while 57 percent had a negative view.
Trump, a Republican, scored best among Republicans at 87 percent approval. Those who identified as conservative (85 percent) also like the president.
“Trump is a little more popular than I expected in Hawaii, given that Obama is so popular in Hawaii and that an awful lot of Trump’s focus has been on undoing Obama-era regulations and such,” said Fitch. “I was also surprised that he was slightly more popular among younger voters than older voters.”
Coming Friday: How Hawaii voters feel about having a constitutional convention
The return of comments: Join Civil Beat political editor Chad Blair and reporter Nathan Eagle for a live discussion of poll results on Friday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. We’ll be accepting — and moderating — comments in a new live chat format you can find on our home page on Friday.
Read the complete Civil Beat Poll results below:
Thoughts on this or any other story? Write a Letter to the Editor. Send to email@example.com and put Letter in the subject line. 200 words max. You need to use your name and city and include a contact phone for verification purposes. And you can still comment on stories on our Facebook page.