A majority of Hawaii residents say the state is moving in the wrong direction and expressed little confidence in the state’s elected officials, a new Honolulu Star-Advertiser poll shows.
Just 27% of respondents said they thought the state was on the right track, compared to 61% who said the state was on the wrong track. Another 12% of respondents said they weren’t sure.
The gloomy outlook was most prevalent on Oahu, while neighbor island residents polled were slightly more upbeat.
Republicans have an even darker view of the state’s trajectory, with 72% of respondents saying the state was on the wrong track and 14% saying the state was on the right track.
It’s not unusual for people to feel that things are heading in the wrong direction, national polls show. But the numbers for Hawaii, which often ranks as the happiest state, are striking when compared to how people feel about the overall direction of the country. On average, about 38% of Americans think the country is heading in the right direction, compared to 59% who say it is headed in the wrong direction, according to Real Clear Politics.
The Star-Advertiser poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Strategy between Sept. 12 and Sept. 17, surveyed 800 registered
voters statewide by phone. The poll’s margin of error
The survey also found that a majority of local residents feel that Hawaii’s elected officials don’t care what they think and generally don’t have high ethical standards.
Just 34% of those polled said elected officials care about what they think, while 56% said they do not. Another 10% of residents said they weren’t sure. Slightly more men than women said they felt that elected officials weren’t interested in their views, while there was little or no difference among age groups and ethnicities.
Some 51% of respondents said they feel elected officials don’t have high ethical standards, while 33% of those polled said they do. Another 16% said they weren’t sure.
Republicans’ view of elected officials was significantly more negative, which isn’t surprising in a state dominated by the Democratic Party.
Peter Landon, a 39-year-old resident of Pukalani on Maui, identifies as a Democrat and was among those polled. He said the state was moving in the wrong direction, citing the handling of the Thirty Meter Telescope and long-standing problems that have yet to be resolved.
“We can’t seem to get renewable energy correct and then just the thing with TMT. We aren’t retreating from the coastline and all of these things that we know are problematic. We’re not making any efforts on it,” he said. “We are still stuck on the tourism dollar and we are unwilling to admit that, and I think that is our biggest problem and why we are so far off the track that we can’t navigate back.”
Landon, who works for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, said the state’s handling of TMT also had it moving in the wrong direction.
“I’m not saying that we are destroying the mountain and all those kinds of things, but we are destroying communities and that in itself, at its core, is what government is supposed to represent — not create the divide — and that is what they’ve done so far,” said Landon. “I’m just not with it anymore. I gave up on it already. Pull out and let everyone rejoice.”
Kenneth Chang, a retired Honolulu resident who since the election of President Donald Trump no longer identifies as a Republican, also said the state was moving in the wrong direction when polled by the Star-
Chang said he feels that way, in part, because of the handling of TMT. However, his frustration stems from the state not taking action to remove the protesters.
Chang also has a low opinion of elected officials. “They just want to get reelected and they don’t come out and say what should be said,” said Chang.
Patricia Lee, a Republican from Kaneohe, also doesn’t have much confidence in elected officials, but tied the problem back to voters.
“The majority of them, you don’t know anything about them,” she said. “And how many people have time to really decide who is good for the office? Everyone just gets on the bandwagon for somebody that they don’t really know.”
Republican leaders said they weren’t surprised by the high numbers of members of their party who took a pessimistic view of the direction of the state and its elected leaders.
Rep. Gene Ward, one of five Republicans in the state House of Representatives, said that much of the disenchantment ties back to Republicans feeling like their vote doesn’t matter and a lack of economic opportunities in Hawaii.
“America has always been about having hope on the horizon to make something of yourself, to make some money, to be somebody. You can grow up to be whatever. That hope has dimmed,” said Ward.
Shirlene Ostrov, chairwoman of the Hawaii Republican Party, echoed Ward’s views on the economy. She said Democrats’ six-decade rule of Hawaii politics had left companies fighting burdensome regulations in an unfriendly business environment and local families struggling under staggering debt.
It “really has sent reasonable expectations of home ownership and financial security too far from reach for most families and so we believe that we need our lawmakers to think a little bit differently than they have been for the last six decades,” she said