By Pete Pichaske
WASHINGTON -- President Clinton, facing an impeachment investigation in Congress, remains popular with Hawaii voters, most of whom give him good marks as president and want him to stay in office.
Sixty percent of the 425 registered voters surveyed in the latest Star-Bulletin/NBC Hawaii News 8 poll say Clinton is doing an excellent or good job and 72 percent say he should not resign.
The results are similar to those of a poll taken in early August, before Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's report was released and the House of Representatives voted to hold an impeachment inquiry.
In the earlier survey, 66 percent approved of Clinton and 73 percent said he should not be impeached.
In the most recent survey, taken Oct. 16-19, only 21 percent said Clinton should be removed from office. An additional 45 percent favored censuring Clinton, a procedure that amounts to an official slap on the wrist from Congress.
Thirty-three percent said the matter should be dropped.
Asked to rate Clinton's job performance, 23 percent called it "excellent," 37 percent "good," 22 percent "fair" and 17 percent "poor." Men were slightly more likely to approve of Clinton's performance than women, and Democrats were twice as likely to approve.
The results suggest voters consider Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky, and his subsequent attempts to cover it up, a private matter. That opinion was voiced by several of the survey respondents interviewed -- in some cases forcefully.
"I don't give a damn what he does behind closed doors," said Larry Schneider, 61, a retired Navy worker who lives on the Big Island. "I don't approve of what he did, but it's personal . . . He just needs to keep his pants zipped."
Schneider praised Clinton's handling of the economy and, to a lesser degree, foreign affairs. He dismissed suggestions that Clinton should resign as "ridiculous."
Jeff Koch, 42, who works in the aquaculture industry on Oahu, echoed those sentiments.
"I'm so sick of the whole Monica Lewinsky and Linda Tripp business," he said. "It shows pretty poor judgment on his part, in his personal life . . . but that's not what we hired the man for.
"What he does with his personal life is really none of my damn business. Just drop it and move on."
"To forgive is divine," said Maui resident Alice Carvalho, 65, when asked about Clinton's affair. "He's not a rich man's darling. He's taken care of the poor as well as the rich, with Social Security and the balanced budget.
"He should remain in office until the end of his term."
National surveys have revealed about the same approval ratings for Clinton as found in Hawaii, although often more support for impeachment.
The most recent USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll, for example, found that 65 percent approve of the way Clinton is handling his job. But 33 percent wanted their House member to vote to impeach Clinton and 30 percent wanted their senators to vote to convict him.
The House Judiciary Committee expects to begin a formal impeachment inquiry next month. The House voted Oct. 8 to launch the open-ended inquiry over the objections of most House Democrats, including Hawaii Reps. Neil Abercrombie and Patsy Mink.
The Star-Bulletin poll was conducted by Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research Inc. of Columbia, Md. The margin for error was plus or minus 5 percent.