- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 27, 2005

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s popularity remains high among Californian voters, but he is losing support of the Democrats and independents who helped elect him governor in 2003, according to a poll released yesterday.

The survey from the Public Policy Institute of California suggests 60 percent of residents favor the way the Republican governor is doing his job. However, 49 percent of Democrats disapproved of his handling of the post, and the number of independents who disapprove increased from 18 percent last year to 32 percent.

Californians no longer see Mr. Schwarzenegger, who had pledged to put an end to partisan squabbles, as being above the political fray, said Mark Baldassare, the poll’s director.

“This is problematic because politics-as-usual is not an option for the governor. His plan to take a bold reform agenda to the people this year still requires bipartisan support,” he added.

The governor has proposed a reform package to bring before voters in a special election this year — an idea that would require broad support across party lines to succeed.

The poll also found that voters care most about education, state budget and the economy, giving Mr. Schwarzenegger positive marks only on the economy.

Californians, according to the poll, do not endorse Mr. Schwarzenegger’s policies on education — an issue that has resurfaced as the top policy concern. While Republicans remain supportive of his handling of education issues, 72 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents disapprove.

About 70 percent see the multibillion-dollar deficit as a “big problem,” but only 38 percent are satisfied with Mr. Schwarzenegger’s proposals, compared with 57 percent a year ago.

His approval ratings in handling the state budget have declined in the past year, and 68 percent of the state residents believe voters should make decisions about the budget process rather than abdicate that responsibility to the governor and Legislature (27 percent).

“California voters are conflicted. They like the fact that Governor Schwarzenegger has focused his attention on the voters. But they are not sure that his solutions are the ones that they want to support,” Mr. Baldassare said.

He added that in the past year the voters have changed from believing the problems are ones Mr. Schwarzenegger has inherited to ones that are his own.

“Since they don’t feel that the kind of progress they would have hoped for with the change of leadership has been made on the budget and school, it is to be expected that a substantial number of voters have become more negative about the job the governor is doing,” he said.

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