The top elected officials of the state and the City and County of Honolulu continue to be viewed negatively by solid majorities of state voters.
In the latest Civil Beat/Hawaii News Now poll, just 19% of voters say they have a positive view of Gov. David Ige compared with 56% who hold negative views.
Similarly, only 28% of voters see Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell in a positive light while 42% have a negative opinion of him. The numbers barely shift when counting only Oahu voters.
The latest views on Ige and Caldwell are nearly identical to what voters had to say about both leaders in mid-May.
Voter opinion on Lt. Gov. Josh Green has remained steady, too, though his positive numbers ticked down a few percentage points this time around (69% in May, 66% in October) while his negative numbers inched a little upward (10% and 14%, respectively).
Put another way, the lieutenant governor is faring much better than Ige and Caldwell seven months into the COVID-19 crisis.
The Civil Beat/HNN poll also checked on how voters think about the Legislature, whose 2020 session was interrupted by the pandemic in March. Forty-five percent said they hold a dismissive position on the Legislature while just 25% hold a more favorable disposition. Views on the Legislature were not surveyed in May.
The latest poll numbers come as the state, at Ige’s direction and with the input of county mayors, health officials and business interests, will reopen Thursday to out-of-state travel. Testing requirements vary, but the goal is to allow travelers who test negative to sidestep a 14-day quarantine.
Ige, as the top state official, and Caldwell as the head of the largest county are understandably held the most accountable for how Hawaii has handled — or mishandled — the pandemic. They have made the tough calls, and there is no shortage of second-guessing on the part of critics.
But, just as we also saw in May, while voters express disapproval for both leaders they continue to believe that the quarantine and stay-at-home orders have been both necessary (77%) and effective (71%).
Those positions are especially supported by voters who identify as Democrat (86%) or liberal/ progressive (85%). Ige, Green and Caldwell are members of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, as are most members of the state House and Senate.
Why the disconnect?
“Isn’t that interesting?” responded Matthew Fitch, managing partner of MRG Research, which conducted the Civil Beat Poll with media partner HNN. “They love Green, who doesn’t really have a whole lot of executive authority, but they like his ideas. Voters think he has a vision, but they seem to believe that Ige and Caldwell are just reacting to events.”
Fitch added, “And what’s odd is that, as you are seeing in the last couple of weeks, what (Ige and Caldwell) are doing is working while we are seeing COVID spiking almost everywhere on the mainland.”
Vina Lanzona, a professor at the University of Hawaii Manoa, thought the state and counties responded well to COVID-19 early on. She agrees that the quarantine and stay-at-home orders were necessary.
The problem, however, was that the state in particular did not then move quickly enough on testing and contact tracing. For that, she holds Ige responsible.
“We did really well at the beginning of the pandemic, but then we did badly, and that is mostly the governor’s fault and the people around him,” Lanzona said.
Lanzona said she has a positive view of Caldwell but said, “It’s a qualified positive. I generally like him as a mayor, and I think that he basically does the right thing but that it takes him a while to get there.”
The mayor and the governor, in her view, have generally presented a united front responding to the coronavirus. But because Ige must approve Caldwell’s orders, “I blame Ige first.”
She allows that her opinion of the governor is influenced by her position as a public employee. Ige is looking at possible furloughs and other cuts, and that upsets her.
Lanzona is unsure what role the Legislature has played in the COVID-19 response, so she said she cannot make an evaluation.
But she likes Josh Green, who she said was “more or less correct about what should have been done” to prepare the state for COVID-19.
“At the same time, he does work for Ige, so he should be culpable too for all the mistakes that happen.”
Christian Fullmer, an Oahu resident who works in construction, has a negative view of Ige, Caldwell, Green and the Legislature, and it is informed largely by the response to the pandemic and his views on personal independence.
“I don’t like the orders,” he said of the quarantine and stay-at-home mandate. “I think they are trying to balance between safety and freedom, and I think freedom is more important than safety. Putting someone on house arrest so they don’t potentially cause harm to others is not right.”
Fullmer does not downplay the seriousness of the virus but rather what he views as overreach in the government’s response.
“I still think that we can protect the vulnerable,” he said. “I don’t think those who are at risk should go out, and I think we should be more careful being around other persons.”
“I still think wearing masks and social distancing is appropriate, but I just don’t think it should be mandated by government,” he said. “It should be our own personal prerogative to do so or not.”
The poll, taken Oct. 2-7, surveyed 988 statewide voters. The poll’s margin of error is 3.1 percentage points.
Civil Beat conducted its poll — a representative sample of registered voters in Hawaii — with MRG Research using a combination of interactive voice response technology (touch-tone polling) and a survey administered online.
The touch-tone version was conducted by contacting landline telephones. The online version was conducted by texting cellphones and linking poll participants to an online survey optimized for smartphones.
Coming Friday: How Donald Trump and Joe Biden are doing in Hawaii, and what voters think of voting by mail.
Read the full results of the Civil Beat/Hawaii News Now poll on how voters view Gov. Ige, Lt. Gov. Green, Mayor Caldwell the Legislature and the COVID-19 orders here:
Civil Beat is a small nonprofit newsroom that provides free content with no paywall. That means readership growth alone can’t sustain our journalism.
The truth is that less than 1% of our monthly readers are financial supporters. To remain a viable business model for local news, we need a higher percentage of readers-turned-donors.
Will you consider becoming a new donor today?