While nearly 70% of Honolulu residents disapprove of President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, they mostly approve of the job by state and county officials.
Among the county residents surveyed, 51% approved of the way Gov. David Ige and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell are handling the situation, while Lt. Gov. Josh Green received a 76% approval rating for the job he’s doing, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Hawaii Poll conducted by Washington, D.C.-based Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy. Overall, Trump received a 67% disapproval rating.
Ige’s approval numbers come as a surprise to some, including poll participant Brendon Lee, a trustee with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs who is not currently running for office.
“I’m surprised that Gov. Ige got 51% — that actually really surprises me,” Lee said. “The fact that he’s been so wishy-washy, I don’t agree with that. He hasn’t been willing to make difficult decisions in a timely manner to help the people of Hawaii,” said Lee. “I would rather have a leader who made hard decisions and was wrong … than someone indecisive, especially when it comes to people’s lives. That especially rings true for me because Native Hawaiians are disproportionately being affected by the virus.”
Hawaii reported the state’s first case of COVID-19 on March 6 in a resident who had been on a cruise from California to Mexico. Four months later, the statewide total number of infections has grown to 1,620, the lowest in the nation. But the state hit a new record of daily coronavirus cases on Saturday with 73 new infections, mostly on Oahu. State officials have reported 26 coronavirus-related deaths — also the lowest in the country.
“The approach the state and for the most part the counties have taken is to control and eradicate COVID-19 to the extent possible and as a result we have a very low … rate locally,” said Honolulu resident Michael Hansen, 69, who participated in the survey. “How in the world are you ever going to open up the economy to outside visitors, which is the lifeblood of our economy? Our local and state government here has solved one problem and created another one.”
Kaneohe resident Margie Sasaki, 66, who worked as a nurse in the insurance industry, said she doesn’t blame elected officials for the increasingly precarious situation, although “there was a lot of mistakes made.”
“They don’t have the experience, nobody’s seen this before. We still don’t know everything about it. It takes a while to study a disease,” she said. “Generally I’m giving grace, but it’s because I feel not everybody knew everything and you can’t hold them responsible and you also can’t control people. You’re going to get these pockets of people who’s not going to listen no matter who tells them. It’s hard to control people … so they’re doing the best job they can do. I just feel like crying for our economy.”
The poll, conducted from July 20-22, randomly surveyed 625 Honolulu registered voters over the phone, with a margin for error of no more than plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Kailua resident Gloria Williaford, 80, said while she generally approves of the handling of the pandemic by elected officials, she would like to see them work together more on solving the crisis.
“I just wish Gov. Ige and Josh Green could get on the same page. I think they’re both trying to do good things, but it doesn’t seem like they’re together. The schooling situation is what’s so frustrating right now,” she said, referring to a debate on whether to reopen public schools on Aug. 4. “I understand the (Department of Education) is in charge, but to me Ige and Green should step up and cooperate with them and make some rules. The teachers are hung out to dry right now, the students are hung out to dry, and especially the parents.”
She added: “We got to continue living as well. We can’t live in fear and dread the rest of our lives. It’s tough. I never thought I’d live my last years like this.”