Hawaii Poll participants were solidly critical of Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s overall handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic — although some of the details in the mayor’s COVID-19 plan for controlling the spread of the virus on Oahu earned higher marks.
With only 38% of respondents saying they approve of Caldwell’s handling of the coronavirus, 49% said they disapprove, with 13% unsure of what rating they think the mayor deserves.
In somewhat of a mixed message, however, a slight majority — 51% — said they approved of Caldwell’s four-tiered strategy for reopening Oahu’s economy. Some 37% disapproved, with 12% saying they were not sure.
And 57% of poll participants agreed with Caldwell’s decision to ban the reopening of Oahu bars and nightclubs as part of the four-tiered strategy, which is based on a gradual reopening of the island triggered by the number of cases and positivity rate over specified time periods. Only 36% of respondents disagreed with the decision and 7% were unsure.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Hawaii Poll was conducted by Washington, D.C.-based Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy from Monday to Wednesday. A total of 625 registered voters on Oahu were interviewed live over land line or cellular telephones. The margin of error was no more than plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Caldwell’s office declined a request to comment on the mixed messages to his COVID-19 response reflected in the Hawaii Poll.
Several respondents to the Hawaii Poll acknowledged being conflicted when asked about the mayor’s overall handling of COVID-19 compared to the details of his approach.
Dan Foster, 61, of Waipahu, said he disapproved of Caldwell’s overall handling of COVID-19 but had a different opinion about his initial closure of bars and nightclubs.
“To be honest, I disagree with complete closure,” Foster said. “Those companies provide support to the local economy through taxes and goods they purchase for resale. Unfortunately, some of the bar owners and people who go there failed to follow good sense.”
When it comes to Caldwell’s policies in general, Baron Ching, 68, of Makiki, said: “I disapprove of almost everything he’s doing.”
Caldwell’s four-tiered template “only added to the confusion,” Ching said. “It’s not his fault. There isn’t any national leadership. It’s chaos out there, but he’s contributing to the chaos and confusion.”
But when it came to shuttering bars and nightclubs, Ching said: “I think it was warranted. I approve. The hospitals were in danger of overwhelming the ICUs (intensive care units). I didn’t want to see bodies going into cold storage outside like they were in New York.”
The discrepancy in opinion was huge between men and women over Caldwell’s overall handling of COVID-19, with 62% of men registering disapproval compared to only 35% of women.
The mayor also fared better with older respondents, with 57% of people under the age of 50 disapproving, compared to only 42% of people 50 and older.
There were also clear differences based on political party affiliation.
Only 36% of Oahu Democrats disapproved of Caldwell’s overall handling of Oahu’s response to the pandemic compared to 68% of Republicans and 55% of independents.
The mayor’s four-tiered approach that he unveiled in September replaced the previous “stay-at-home/work-from-home” order and was designed as a template to easing restrictions on Oahu depending on the level of community spread, including the seven-day average of daily new cases and the positivity rate over two- or four-week periods.
Tier 1 represents a high level of community spread testing the limits of the public health system, while Tier 4 represents a low level of community spread easily handled by the public health system.
Only 45% of men participating in the poll agreed with the approach, compared to 57% of women. And only 46% of people under age 50 agreed, compared to 55% of those 50 years of age and older.
Democrats — 59% — also agreed, compared to only 46% of Republicans and 42% of independents.
Bertram Angut, 63, of Waianae, said he approved of Caldwell’s four-tiered approach, “but I don’t know if it’s working.”
The issue of Caldwell’s decision to close bars and nightclubs also revealed wide disparities among respondents.
Only 47% of men agreed, compared to 67% of women.
There was clear support to close bars and nightclubs between both younger and older people. But only 53% of respondents under the age of 50 agreed compared to 61% of those age 50 and above.