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Schwarzenegger's popularity among voters continues to slide

A new Field Poll finds three of four Californians surveyed have a negative image of the former governor in the wake of the revelation that he fathered a boy 14 years ago with a household staffer.

June 18, 2011|By Mike Anton, Los Angeles Times
  • A new Field Poll finds three of four Californians surveyed have a negative image of Arnold Schwarzenegger, shown discussing the state budget in 2009.
A new Field Poll finds three of four Californians surveyed have a negative… (Rich Pedroncelli, Associated…)

Arnold Schwarzenegger isn't governor anymore. But his poll numbers continue to slide.

A new Field Poll released Friday found three of four California voters surveyed have a negative image of Schwarzenegger in the wake of the revelation that he fathered a boy 14 years ago with a former household staff member.

That's lower than at any time during his two terms in office.

Photos: A political marriage with star power

Perhaps most striking: The former Republican governor's 75% unfavorable rating knows no political, geographical or demographic bounds. Whether Democrat or Republican, young or old, male or female, white or non-white — voters' image of Schwarzenegger is at an all-time low.

Statewide, only 20% of those surveyed had a favorable view of Schwarzenegger.

"The only surprise to me is that anybody still likes him," said Jack Pitney, a professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College.

Schwarzenegger's approval rating fluctuated while he was in office, reaching as high as 63% in March 2007.

"People could be disappointed in his performance as governor but still like him personally. They could say he held the job in difficult times or the Legislature wasn't cooperative…" Pitney said. "But this is something that's clearly his fault and it says something terrible about his character."

The distance of Schwarzenegger's fall from grace is shocking, said Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo.

"This was one of the biggest movie stars in the world," DiCamillo said. "He had phenomenal celebrity, he was married to a Kennedy, he had all these storybook qualities to his life… People really took the Kool-Aid.

"His image ratings have always been higher than his job ratings," he added. "Now his personal rating is as low as his job rating."

And nowhere was it lower than in Democrat-dominated Los Angeles County, where only 10% of poll respondents viewed Schwarzenegger favorably.

By comparison, the liberal San Francisco Bay Area gave Schwarzenegger (relatively) high marks: 26% still had a favorable view of him.

"The Bay Area was a little more tolerant of his indiscretions than elsewhere," DiCamillo said.

But political polls aren't Q Scores, and it's not clear whether Schwarzenegger's unpopularity with voters will translate if and when he returns to the big screen.

"In this poll he's still being judged in a political context," said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. "From this point on, the context becomes Mel Gibson and Charlie Sheen.

"From that standpoint," Schnur added, "he won't be judged quite as harshly."

Photos: A political marriage with star power

mike.anton@latimes.com

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