A majority of Hawaii residents believe government is moving in the right direction in its handling of the coronavirus crisis, a statewide survey has found.
In the survey by Honolulu-based SMS Research & Marketing Service Inc., 64% of residents believe that the government’s response to the epidemic is so far being managed well. Only 25% feel the government’s handling of the situation is going wrong, while 10% didn’t know or refused to answer.
The results, released Wednesday, are part of a wide-ranging survey, conducted last week, that offers a snapshot of the concerns and needs of the community at a time when a mysterious virus looms and extraordinary government measures, including stay-at-home orders and mandatory quarantines, have crippled the state’s economy.
SMS President Faith Sereno Rex said that while there have been surveys involving businesses, it was important to learn how the people are feeling during this time of uncertainty.
“I really think it’s important — especially now that the Legislature is in session — to share with decision makers just where the community stands at this moment in time,” Rex said.
And the older the respondent, the more they felt the state was doing right by them, with 90% of those 75 or older saying the state is moving in the right direction, compared to 54% of the people under 35 answering the same.
Former Ewa Beach state Sen. Will Espero said the survey results are not surprising given the fact that Hawaii has some of the lowest death and infection rates in the country.
“You have to give government credit for taking action,” Espero said. “It’s a tough time to be governor or mayor. Somebody has to make the difficult decisions that benefit the whole state and islands. Overall, those decisions have been good ones.”
House Speaker Scott Saiki said it’s good news 64% feel the state is headed in the right direction.
“I assume most residents realize this is an unprecedented situation, and also this is a complex situation with no easy answer to working our way out of this,” he said.
Still, Saiki said there are improvements that can be made, including better communication and coordination by Gov. David Ige. It’s not helpful, he said, when the governor and the mayors give contradictory information in their dueling press conferences.
The only immediate change in policy wanted by more adults, according to the survey, was to open beaches and parks to unlimited activity (37%).
More than half, meanwhile, want to keep the following measures intact for a couple of months or longer: closed schools and universities, social distancing, discouraging tourists, no large groups and no team sports.
Rex said many in the survey seemed rather cautious about opening up the economy, with most saying they will be taking a “wait and see” approach before patronizing businesses when they do reopen.
The business people are most eager to patronize?
That would be hair salons and barbershops, with 37% saying they would visit them immediately.
On the other hand, many indicated they would be waiting awhile before going to sit-down restaurants (75%), shopping centers (69%), movie theaters/plays (67%) and large public sporting events (61%).
How do people view the pandemic in Hawaii?
Nearly half of adults believe the situation is slowly getting better, while 15% said it’s almost over. But 26% still believe recovery has stalled or is growing worse.
Many are struggling
The pandemic and the measures taken by government to tamp down on the virus have obviously hit some people hard, the survey results indicate.
About 36% of adults are struggling financially while having to draw on savings, run up debt or be supported by others.
What’s more, nearly 20% of people worry about having enough food for their family, and about 6% said they rely on a nonprofit for food.
Hawaii Foodbank President and CEO Ron Mizutani said the numbers sound right, as demand for food has more than doubled in the past few months and thousands are attending massive twice-a-week food giveaways at Aloha Stadium, along with smaller distributions elsewhere across the islands.
“Sometimes hunger doesn’t raise its hands and share all, so the figure could be even higher,” Mizutani said.
The survey was conducted from May 5 to 10. A total of 402 surveys were completed across the state, resulting in a 4.8% margin of error at a 95% confidence level. SMS said the data was balanced to reflect the adult population of the state using the 2018 U.S Census Data.
Rex said the company plans to undertake similar surveys every three weeks for the next few months to provide insights on how the community’s attitudes and concerns change as time passes.