Survey shows concern about government spending and debt

The following news release was issued by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii on Nov. 10, 2021.

The poll of nearly 1,000 Hawaii residents also found significant agreement that private firms should be more involved in delivering public services

HONOLULU, Nov. 10, 2021 >> High levels of state and county government spending and debt are not popular in Hawaii, according to a recent survey of nearly 1,000 Hawaii residents statewide.

The survey was conducted Aug. 16 to Sept. 7 for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii by Anthology, one of Hawaii’s leading market research firms. Its margin of error for the sample size of n=933 is 3.21 percentage points, with a 95% confidence level.

ON THE ISSUE of government spending, 70% of the respondents agreed (33% “strongly” and 37% “somewhat”) with the statement that “Hawaii’s state and county governments spend too much overall,” and 68% agreed (30% “strongly” and 38% “somewhat”) that “High levels of government spending hurt Hawaii’s economy.

The poll also showed a strong sentiment in favor of relying more on the private sector to help deliver public services, with 74% of respondents agreeing (22% “strongly” and 52% “somewhat”) that “Local governments could save money if they contracted the private sector to deliver some public services.”

Regarding government debt, 77% agreed (32% “strongly” and 45% “somewhat”) that “Hawaii’s state and county governments have too much debt“; 63% agreed (13% “strongly” and 50% “somewhat”) that “Taking on debt is a way for politicians to avoid raising taxes in the short term; and 56% disagreed (16% “strongly” and 40% “somewhat”) that “Government debt is a good thing because it enables spending to benefit the community.


THE SURVEY showed significant support for spending and debt under certain conditions.

For example, 83% of the respondents agreed (30% “strongly” and 53% “somewhat”) that Spending on public infrastructure helps lay the foundation for a healthy economy.

Similarly, 65% agreed both that “Government spending strengthens public services(16% “strongly” and 49% “somewhat”) and that “Government spending is a good way to stimulate economic growth (15% “strongly” and 50% somewhat”).

On the issue of debt, 53% agreed (12% “strongly” and 41% somewhat”) that “Debt is a good way to keep the government functioning during temporary revenue shortfalls.”

The takeaway

Keli’i Akina, president and CEO of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, said, “The good news from the survey is that most Hawaii residents are concerned about government overspending and excessive debt.

“I am also pleased,” he said, “to see so many people in favor relying more on the private sector to deliver public services, which could help bring down costs and improve efficiency.”

Akina acknowledged that Hawaii residents seem to be forgiving when it comes to spending on infrastructure or dealing with a crisis.

“These results help explain why it has been so difficult to bring government spending and debt under control,” he said. “But that should not be taken as a license by our lawmakers to continue exceeding the state’s constitutional spending limit and driving up our unfunded liabilities to dangerous levels.”

Akina urged Hawaii policymakers to keep their spending low and their debts even lower.

“That way,” he said, “Hawaii residents can keep more money in their pockets to spend as they see fit, whether to invest in new businesses, take care of their families, spend in the local economy or donate to deserving community charities. The key is to not push today’s spending bills off onto future generations and risk financial ruin in the process.”

The respondents

For more information about the demographics of those who responded to the statements about government spending, go here; for the statements about government debt, here.

Previous survey results

As previously reported by the institute, this same survey found:

>> Most Hawaii residents who have heard of the federal maritime law known as the Jones Act are in favor of scrapping or reforming it. For more information about those results, go here.

>> 87% of Hawaii residents favor opening up more land for housing. See details of those results here.

>> 63% of Hawaii residents volunteered that “COVID/vaccination issues” are among their one or two most pressing community concerns. See here.

>> Most people in Hawaii think they are paying too much in taxes and would like to see them lowered. See here.

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