Despite low approval in the way Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger handles specific issues, 49 percent of the Sacramento region approves of his overall job performance in office, according to an annual regional survey directed by Sacramento State sociology professor Amy Liu.
“He’s a superstar,” Liu said. “People like him more than the issues he’s dealt with.”
Nearly half of the 1,122 total people surveyed approve of Schwarzenegger as a governor, but are less positive when asked about specific issues he’s handled, according to the survey.
Disapproval was prevalent specifically in issues like affordable housing, public education and the state budget all of which received either half or more than half disapproval rating.
The survey also found the governor’s general approval rating and approval ratings on issues like public education, the state budget, public transportation and taxes have all lowered since an identical survey was done February of 2004, one month after Schwarzenegger took office. Ratings on the issue of affordable housing stayed the same.
However, in flood control, Schwarzenegger’s approval rating grew from 37 percent to 53 percent after he issued an emergency declaration for the improvement on delta levees in February.
Sacramento’s concern with flood control is one reason Liu said she thinks is the explanation behind another one of the survey’s findings: Schwarzenegger’s approval rating in Sacramento was 49 percent _” 14 percent more than the 35 percent he received from people surveyed throughout California.
“The key issue in Sacramento is flood control,” Liu said. “He championed to get funding for flood protection in Sacramento.”
Also, the Sacramento region is split up into four counties, with El Dorado and Placer counties generally known as Republican counties and the Sacramento and Yolo counties known as Democratic, Liu said.
El Dorado and Placer counties had nearly 50 percent of the people surveyed say they would vote for Schwarzenegger in the upcoming election, while Sacramento and Yolo counties had close to 30 percent.
Since California is a Democratic state, the responses are going to be negative toward Schwarzenegger, but the two Republican counties balance out the Democrats, making the approval rate of the region higher than that of the state, Liu said.
Another reason for the higher approval rating in the state’s capital is Schwarzenegger’s past career as a movie star, Liu said.
“Arnold, as a star, brings a lot of name recognition to Sacramento,” Liu said. “Because of Arnold, people know where Sacramento is.”
In response to the disparity of survey numbers in the Sacramento region to those of the state, data collection supervisor Jessica Hays said she infers that Sacramento is more conservative than the rest of the state and that Sacramentans have more opportunities to meet the governor, or at least catch glimpses of him around town.
However, for Sac State College Republicans Executive Vice President Aaron Pina, the governor has more to offer than his movie star status.
“Schwarzenegger is not the typical Republican,” said Pina, a government graduate student. “He’s fiscally conservative and socially moderate.”
Criminal justice graduate student and Sac State College Republicans Treasurer Erica Knauff said she agrees.
“He’s starting to care about global warming and forcing companies to be strict,” Knauff said. “I’m a criminal justice student, and I’m more concerned with him signing laws for sexual offenders to keep them locked up longer.”
Although the survey found that Schwarzenegger would receive the votes of 67 percent of the Republicans and 10 percent of the Democrats surveyed, while the Democratic nominee, state Treasurer Phil Angelides, would receive the votes of 4 percent of the republicans and 54 percent of the Democrats surveyed, Brian Brokaw, Phil Angelides’ campaign spokesman, said the survey result is “by no means a raving review” for the incumbent governor.
“Californians are going to see a very distinct choice before them in November. Most Californians will agree that it’s time for a governor who stands up for middle-class families and students every single day, not just when his job is on the line,” Brokaw said. “That’s why we’re confident Angelides will be elected in November.”
Still, votes are what will matter in the election and the Schwarzenegger camp isn’t taking the data as a bad sign.
“Dr. Liu’s survey numbers reflect the same thing all recent polls have Phil Angelides’ message is not resonating with voters. Democrats, Republicans and independents alike just can’t stomach $18 billion in new taxes,” said Amanda Fulkerson, Schwarzenegger’s campaign spokeswoman. “Voters see Governor Schwarzenegger’s accomplishments, appreciate his leadership and have a positive outlook on his second term.”
While the election is months away and all predictions are still purely based on speculation, opinions differ.
Dustin Butcher, a senior history major and a registered independent, said the survey results reflect what is to come in the fall election.
“I think it’s going to profoundly affect the election for the Democrats because people base judgments on image instead of what the issues are,” Butcher said.