When Gov. David Ige was last surveyed in a Civil Beat/Hawaii News Now poll, voters gave him pretty low marks. Just 19% said they had a positive view of him compared to 56% who held a negative view.

That was in October 2020. The latest poll, taken June 28-30, may provide the Ige administration with some small measure of satisfaction: The governor’s positive approval numbers have climbed to 30% while the negative figure has dropped 5 percentage points to 51%.

What’s different today? The Covid-19 pandemic is largely under control in Hawaii so no more restrictions or orders to work from home and the local economy is roaring again, thanks to the return of tourists by the planeload.

The approval numbers for the person hoping to replace Ige — Lt. Gov. Josh Green — have gone in the opposite direction, however.

While the new Civil Beat/HNN poll shows Green with a formidable lead over his two main Democratic opponents in the Aug. 13 primary, the same voters give him a positive rating of 54% while 26% have a negative opinion.

Those are still great numbers — the highest of Hawaii’s top elected officials. He does very well among voters who are older, white, Japanese American, Filipino American and Democrats.

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Still, Green’s positive numbers dropped by double digits from October 2020, when he was at 66%, while the negative numbers crept up from 14% to 26%.

The least favorable marks were for the Hawaii State Legislature, which earned just 21% of voters praise but 51% displeasure.

Voters’ opinion about the Legislature contradicts news articles and commentary that the 2022 session was historic in terms of passing landmark legislation. But then, the same body also scored poorly in October 2020 (45% negative, 25% positive) when the sessions were shortened due to Covid.

The new Civil Beat/HNN poll surveyed 1,120 registered voters statewide. The full poll’s margin of error is 3 percentage points.

False Missile Alert Lives On

Some voters who spoke with Civil Beat for this story have long memories. Noel Gomes, 43, for example, dislikes Ige because of an incident that happened more than four years ago as well as his record the last two-plus years.

“The missile false alarm was a big deal, and I didn’t like the way he handled Covid lockdowns,” he said, referring to the mistake that sent some residents scrambling for shelter and cast an embarrassing international Klieg light in January 2018.

“The way they would open up and lock down again did a lot of damage to businesses, which could have been avoided. I think people should have more of a choice,” added Gomes, a small business owner from Kalihi.

Camden Mullenaux, 28, feels the same way about the Legislature.

“It just seems like things are handled inappropriately,” said Mullenaux, a Whole Foods employee from Honolulu.

“They do not communicate to the public well enough,” he explained, also referring to the missile scare as well as the ongoing Red Hill fuel leak mess.

But others think Ige handled the pandemic well.

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Rayann Wilmot, 25, who moved to Hawaii in 2020, recalls Ige’s Safe Travels Hawaii Program in a favorable light.

“I felt like he did a pretty good job of handling the severity of the pandemic,” she said.

The Aloha United Way employee from Makiki added, “He probably could do a little bit better on sharing public records for certain state offices. But overall, I feel relatively positive.”

Public appearances have led some voters to favor Green.

“He seems to have a lot of empathy,” said Robert Whitton, who saw Green doing outreach with Health Care for the Homeless in Kakaako.

“I think caring for the unhoused is Hawaii’s No. 1 problem. So it was pretty good to see him out there,” he said. Whitton, 52, now thinks Green is a guy who puts his actions where his mouth is.

“And when I hear him talk, I don’t get angry — which is not the case with other ones,” the Kaneohe resident and software company salesman added.

But Casey McKenzie, 32, a hydrologist from Ewa Beach, does not approve of the way Green handled information during the pandemic.

“I think that it could have been done a lot better, especially given that he’s a health professional,” she said.

She added, “My biggest frustration is that there has not been equality in the way that peer-reviewed science has been addressed by a lot of our leadership.”

Kai Kahele Disappoints Voters

Poll numbers for Hawaii’s congressional delegation changed very little since we last checked on U.S. Sens. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz and U.S. Rep. Ed Case. That was in May 2020, and the positive numbers for all three were decent.

But Congressman Kai Kahele, who won in a landslide race two years ago, did not fare so well with voters in this survey.

In the new poll, Kahele — who is leaving Congress to run for governor — was viewed positively by only 28% of voters while 40% had a negative opinion.

“Case does well in the 1st Congressional District, but Kahele is underwater in the 2nd Congressional District,” said Seth Rosenthal, a survey consultant with MRG Research.

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John Quincy Adams, 67, a semi-retired Laie resident is concerned because Kahele hasn’t spent that much time in Washington. But he also doesn’t care for career politicians.

“I like the fact that he might be not as experienced as others who make a lifetime of being politicians,” he said.

Adams added, “I also like the fact that he’s a veteran, a local boy, and part Hawaiian.”

But Gene Kuth, 54, from Wahiawa does not appreciate Kahele’s work ethic.

“He wasn’t showing up to the votes and doing his job,” he said.

“He was double-dipping on the taxpayers dime,” he added.

How’s Rick Blangiardi Doing?

The other top elected official not in office two years ago was Rick Blangiardi. Now nearing the halfway mark in his four-year term, he received decent scores in the new poll.

“There are still a lot of unsure voters on Oahu, but of those who have an opinion he’s doing pretty well,” said Rosenthal.

On Oahu, Blangiardi was viewed positively by 40% of the voters surveyed, while 26% had a negative opinion. Another 34% just weren’t sure.

Honolulu resident Ryan Okuno, 36, a project manager for Alpha Electric Supply, likes Blangiardi’s flexibility.

“He seems really politically malleable,” said Okuno. “He wants to be liked, I guess. He’s afraid of voters, which is great, because then they’ll do what we want.”

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Okuno pointed to a recent example of the mayor listening to constituents when he reversed his decision to end the Seagull School Early Education Center’s property lease after public backlash.

But that’s not enough for Marie Lum, 59, a Kailua paralegal who wishes Blangiardi would do more to help the Hawaiian people.

“When he took over, he didn’t come in with any plans of his own,” she said. “He kind of just adopted whatever was left behind and went with it instead of doing what he promised.”

She added, “I’m Native Hawaiian. So, for me, I want to see things done right by the Hawaiians. But I don’t see him doing anything about the monies for the trust lands.”

Full Disclosure

Civil Beat conducted its poll with MRG Research using a combination of interactive voice response technology (touch-tone polling) and a survey administered online.

Both the touch-tone and online version of the poll were conducted using random, probability-based samplings of registered voters in Hawaii.

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 Monday: How voters feel about the Thirty Meter Telescope and Honolulu rail project.

Read other recent Civil Beat/HNN poll stories here.

Read the full results of Civil Beat/Hawaii News Now poll on the approval ratings here:

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