Registered voters in Hawaii have a far more favorable impression of the lieutenant governor than of his boss.
Of those surveyed in the latest Civil Beat/Hawaii News Now poll, 63% said they had a positive view of Josh Green, who has all but declared his intention to succeed the term-limited David Ige next year.
The governor’s positive numbers were a dismal 22% while more than half of voters (53%) see the governor in a negative light. Green’s negative numbers, by contrast, were just 17%.
“When you look at Tuesday’s poll on COVID-19, voters think Ige’s executive orders have been effective and necessary, yet they don’t like him,” said Matthew Fitch, managing partner of MRG Research, which conducted the poll April 16-21. “They don’t think he is the architect of it all.”
Instead, said Fitch, “They give all the credit to the lieutenant governor, who has very much been the public face of all this.”
Green, a medical doctor, is the COVID-19 liaison for the Ige administration. He is a constant presence in mainstream and social media and on occasion can even be seen administering vaccines himself.
How might this influence Green’s chances in the Democratic Primary next August?
Fitch said the results of the poll, which sampled 1,506 registered voters statewide with a plus or minus margin of 2.5 percentage points, show that Green does well both on Oahu and the neighbor islands (he is a former Big Island state senator), with women and men, with Caucasians and Japanese Americans, with the well educated and those who do not have a college degree.
“Even his Republican numbers are pretty good,” said Fitch. “The one area where he is a little soft is among most liberals, although he does well with moderates. So if Green has a real weakness, it’s from the left in the primary. But his numbers look awfully good.”
The deadline to file candidacy papers for the Aug. 13, 2022, primary, is not until June 7, so there is plenty of time for gubernatorial candidates to emerge.
The only potential candidates to have begun raising money for a run are Green and former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
If Caldwell is still weighing a run for governor, the new poll may prove sobering. His positive numbers (29%) and his negative numbers (46%) statewide are similar to Ige’s. Like the governor, the former mayor has not benefitted from the same voters (about two-thirds) who believe that the state and local stay-at-home and quarantine orders were called for and worked.
By contrast, Caldwell’s successor, Rick Blangiardi, fares much better in the new survey, although about one-third of Oahu voters say they aren’t sure what to think of the new mayor.
But with a 50% positive rating on Oahu Blangiardi “is still in the honeymoon phase,” said Fitch. “Compared to Caldwell, voters are happy with a fresh start.”
He added, “Fairly or unfairly, there is a fair amount of Caldwell fatigue. With things like rail, it’s not going to get any better. And next year is going to be here before you know it.”
In spite of his many detractors, the governor does have his admirers. They include KC Ross of Kehena in the Puna district of the Big Island.
“I like how Ige has handled the pandemic,” she said. “I am pretty isolated here in Kehena and I keep pretty much socially distanced. But I am old and I have lung issues, so it would be very dangerous to get COVID.”
Ross, 73, said, “I don’t think I would have survived this whole year and a couple of months without being careful.”
But she has even greater praise for the LG and points out that there was only one new case of COVID on the island’s east side on Wednesday.
“I especially like Josh Green because I like his thoughts on COVID,” she said. “I see him on TV — but also the governor — and they describe what they are doing for the state. They have done a good job.”
Ross, a retired marriage and family therapist who worked in Hilo, said she and her partner have been vaccinated and are looking at traveling to California this summer to celebrate the 101st birthday of Ross’s mom.
For Patrick Myatt of Hawaii Kai, however, Green deserves praise but not Ige.
“I did vote for him the first time, but he doesn’t really seem to be particularly decisive,” said Myatt, 85, who is retired from corporate communications with Hawaiian Electric. “I do think he is a nice guy, but nice guys don’t always make great leaders.”
What bothers Myatt in particular is Ige’s hesitancy, such as his response to the telescope protest on Mauna Kea.
“I don’t like the way he handled it,” he said.
But Green, said Myatt, was “the right guy in the right place for the pandemic in terms of him being a medical doctor. I remember seeing his work for the homeless before. I see him as a compassionate leader — not that Ige isn’t compassionate, but he just doesn’t show it.”
As for the mayors of Honolulu past and present, Myatt said he never had a solid sense of where Caldwell stood on the issues.
“He seemed to vacillate from one to the next, seeming to change his mind,” he said. “In the end he never seemed particularly grounded in the issues.”
On Blangiardi, however, Myatt — who also worked as a journalist for 30 years with the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong — said he watched him for a long time as he gave his daily messages on Hawaii News Now.
“I came to the conclusion that, even though he did not seem to have all the necessary tools to be a great mayor, I thought as a businessman he would bring something different to the job.”
This is the first time Civil Beat/HNN has polled a speaker of the state House of Representatives. Given Rep. Scott Saiki’s elevated profile during the pandemic, economic downturn and just-completed legislative session, we decided it was appropriate.
The conclusion: Nearly 60% say they are not sure about Saiki, who has been speaker since 2017. For those who had heard of him, 27% viewed him negatively and only 15% positively.
“They don’t know who he is,” said Fitch.
More registered voters said they were aware of the Hawaii Legislature, but barely one-fifth have positive feelings about it compared with nearly half who look at the Legislature through a negative lens.
As for Hawaii’s congressional delegation, Sen. Brian Schatz does best with a 52% positive score and a 30% negative score. Sen. Mazie Hirono and Rep. Ed Case follow Schatz with somewhat lower marks.
“They all have decent numbers, but Schatz’s are a little stronger, which is good for him because he is up for re-election next year,” said Fitch.
Hawaii’s fourth member in Congress, Rep. Kai Kahele, has only been on the job for four months and so most voters feel they don’t know him well enough.
Of note: While Civil Beat/HNN conducted a statewide poll, there was also a focus on Oahu. For those questions, 1,002 registered voters were surveyed and the margin of error was 3.5 percentage points.
Similarly, Congressional District 1 questions surveyed 692 registered voters (the margin of error is plus or minus 4.3 percentage points) while Congressional District 2 questions surveyed 814 registered voters (for a 3.7 percentage point margin).
Coming Thursday: Voter views on Honolulu rail
Read the full results of the Civil Beat/Hawaii News Now poll here:
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