In Tuesday’s Civil Beat/HNN Poll, Hawaii Gov. David Ige and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell received strong negative reviews from many voters.
When asked to elaborate, people expressed great disappointment with the top officials’ handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Poor communication, mixed messages and failure to present a unified government response were cited as chief complaints.
And yet, in the latest poll conducted by Civil Beat in partnership with Hawaii News Now, voters say they strongly support the stay-at-home orders (71%) and the 14-day quarantine for arrivals (71%) that were put in place by emergency orders from Ige, Caldwell and the other county mayors.
Even more voters (77%) say the orders have been necessary, while nearly four out of five voters believe the orders have been effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19.
“Ige and Caldwell may well be victims of their own policy success,” said Matthew Fitch, managing partner of MRG Research which conducted the poll. “The people (voters) don’t like are the exact same people who implemented the policies they approve of.”
The broad acceptance of the COVID-19 restrictions cross most demographics including age, gender, geography, education and race.
People earning more than $100,000, however, are less supportive of the policies than those making less than that figure.
The most clear differences are between voters who identify as Democrat or liberal — that is, those who favor the quarantine and staying at home — versus those who are more moderate, conservative, independent or Republican and who care far less for the policies.
Fitch says the poll responses for these voters mirror national trends where Republicans tend to favor reopening the economy sooner than Democrats. But the pushback over curbing personal freedoms is nowhere near as evident locally.
Still, the overall response to this poll may well give Hawaii’s leaders some pause as they decide how and when to reopen the economy, especially tourism.
So will this takeaway: Asked whether it is more important to stop the spread of the virus even if the economy worsens, by a 2-to-1 margin — or 61% to 30% — voters favor dealing with the virus first.
The Civil Beat/HNN Poll, conducted May 18-20, surveyed 1,533 registered voters statewide using a combination of interactive voice response technology (touch-tone polling) and a survey administered online.
The results were weighted to reflect a mix of 50% landlines and 50% cell phones. Cells phones contacted via text were routed to the online survey. The overall margin of error is 2.5 percentage points.
Jody Aadland of Ocean View on the Big Island is one of many poll respondents who think the stay-at-home and quarantine orders have been necessary and effective.
But at the same time he’s also one of those who gave Ige negative marks, saying he doesn’t trust the governor himself.
“I think that if we roll out a message that — ‘Ready, set, go, let’s reopen the economy’ — that will be a big problem,” he said. “So I would shy away from that.”
Controlling coronavirus, said Aadland, is about controlling the variables, “especially when you don’t know what you are dealing with. I think this shutdown should be used as a way to regroup and to understand your enemy, to be more cognitive and thoughtful before making a reopen order.”
Aadland, who works in business development, said he’s been fortunate, as he already works remotely. In March his co-workers began working remotely, too.
“I suppose if you talk to people who maybe have kids running around the house, they might have a totally different opinion about working from home,” he allowed.
Watch the video above or click here to read Hawaii News Now’s report on the poll.
Cheryl Kaawaloa lives on the east side of the Big Island in Pahoa. She has been at home for months now since being laid off as a part-time employee at the state Department of Health.
“It’s been a nightmare, but I am doing OK,” she said. “Hopefully school will return in August. We are still not sure, or whether it will be online for the first quarter.”
Kaawaloa favors controlling the spread of COVID-19 before focusing on the economy, but she calls it a Catch-22 situation.
“It’s a really hard question because they are both so important,” she said. “Our economy is tanking. And you feel — it just breaks my heart for businesses that are on the brink of closing — forever! But you have to concentrate on this virus because, if we don’t, it will be even longer before we can open things up.”
The orders have impacted everybody Kaawaloa knows, including her two sons. One is a physician at the VA Clinic in Hilo.
“They are not seeing patients face to face,” she said. “They are doing telemedicine.”
The other son is an F-22 Raptor pilot for the Air National Guard at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
“He’s not even allowed to leave Oahu unless it’s for the military,” she said.
Kaawaloa is among the 80% of voters who say that they support state authorities tracking tourists to ensure they comply with the quarantine rules.
“It’s not about me, it’s not about you,” she explains. “It’s about we.”
And, Kaawaloa was among the many people polled who said they hold a negative opinion of Ige — even though she agrees that Ige deserves some credit for ordering the quarantine and stay at home.
Coming Thursday: Who’s up and who’s down in the race for Honolulu mayor.
During this unique election season, we appreciate that you and others like you have relied on Civil Beat for accurate, objective coverage of the candidates and their races.
Covering the pandemic has taken a lot of our collective energy. But through it all, our small team of reporters made sure you didn’t forget about electoral politics. Because we know that elections not only test society’s participation in our democracy, but journalism’s commitment to safeguarding it.
If you’ve relied on our election coverage this season, please consider making a tax-deductible gift to support our newsroom.