Isle residents aware of Jones Act mostly favor its repeal or reform

Many Hawaii policymakers support the protectionist federal shipping law, but a new survey indicates they might be out of step with Hawaii’s public

HONOLULU, Nov. 2, 2021 >> Hawaii residents who have heard of the Jones Act are mostly in favor of scrapping or reforming it, according to a new survey of almost 1,000 randomly selected adults on all the major islands.

The survey was commissioned by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii and conducted between Aug. 16 and Sept. 7 by Anthology, one of Hawaii’s leading market research companies. The survey has a margin of error of 3.21% and a confidence level of 95%.

Support for scrapping or modifying the 1920 federal maritime law known as the Jones act was consistent across multiple demographics, including ethnicity, county of residence and homeownership.

Support for both repeal or reform totaled 63% for Democrats, 73% for Republicans, 68% for public sector workers, 65% for private sector workers and 65% for union households.

These results were from respondents who said they had heard about the Jones Act before being asked about it as part of the survey.

The questions

The respondents first were presented the following statement:

“The Jones Act restricts shipping between the U.S. mainland and Hawaii to only ships are U.S. flagged and built, and mostly owned and crewed by Americans.”

They were then asked if they had ever heard of the act prior to taking part in the study. Almost half of the respondents — 43% — said yes, they had.

Those who answered yes were then asked if they thought the Jones Act should be scrapped, modified, left the same or if they had no opinion.

Almost seven out of 10 — 67% — said the protectionist federal shipping law should be either “scrapped,” 26%, or modified to some extent, 41%.

Only 17% said the law should remain the same; 17% said they had no opinion.

When those who favored repeal were asked why, 42% said it's because the law increases shipping costs and Hawaii’s cost of living; 22% said it was outdated, useless or no longer necessary; and 20% said it prevents competitive rates and pricing.

When those who favored reform were asked why, 22% said it's because they think foreign ships should be allowed to serve Hawaii, though with restrictions, 17% said simply that foreign ships should be allowed to serve Hawaii; 11% said Hawaii should be exempt from the Jones Act; and 10% said only that the law should be modified.

The takeaway

Keli'i Akina, president and CEO of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, said the results should be a wake-up call to Hawaii politicians who support the Jones Act.

“If the results of this survey are any indication, they should be reassessing their positions to be more in step with their constituents,” he said. "Further, as more people learn about the Jones Act, the wave in favor of reform will get even bigger. So lawmakers might wish to take a leadership role now in reforming the Jones Act for the benefit of Hawaii."

Akina said Hawaii residents who aren't already aware of the Jones Act can find out more by visiting the institute's website at www.grassrootinstitute.org. Recent publications concerning the law include "Five myths about the Jones Act" and "Quantifying the cost of the Jones Act to Hawaii."

For more information about the survey's Jones Act responses by demographic segment — age, gender, ethnicity, household income, political party affiliation, political engagement, voter registration, primary residence, union affiliation, education and more — click on the button below or go here.

Previously reported results

>> As reported by the institute on Oct. 26, this same survey found that 97% of Hawaii adults statewide think Hawaii housing is too expensive, 87% think Hawaii needs more housing, 87% either “strongly” or “somewhat” support adding 1 to 2 percentage points more of land to the existing 5% designated urban to accommodate more housing, and 35% blame “not enough land zoned for residential housing” as the reason for high Hawaii home prices. To read more about those results, please go here.

>> On Oct. 21, the institute revealed that 63% of Hawaii residents volunteered “COVID/vaccination issues” when asked about what they consider their one or two most pressing community concerns. Other volunteered responses included homelessness, 24%; the economy and Hawaii’s high cost of living, 18%; crime, 14%; the high cost and availability of housing, 14%; and more. To read more about those results, please go here.

>> On Oct. 13, this survey found that a substantial majority of Hawaii residents think they are paying too much in taxes and would like to see them lowered. For more information about those results, please go here.

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