SAN FRANCISCO – Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) has the highest level of support at this stage in his term of any Californian governor in nearly 30 years, with even a plurality of Democrats backing the performance of the former action hero.
The nonpartisan Field Poll (search) released Tuesday found Schwarzenegger with a 65 percent approval rating nine months after taking office, equal to his mark in May. The last governor to have that high a rating six to 10 months into office was Jerry Brown, who had a 67 percent approval rating in November 1975.
"These are unusual times," Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo said. "For Schwarzenegger, it's clearly his honeymoon period. I can't imagine he'll be able to sustain this high a level of approval in the long run. The question is how long will he be able to maintain his current popularity."
Schwarzenegger even has the backing of Democrats, who approve of the job he's doing by 45 percent to 35 percent, with 19 percent undecided. The governor has the support of 90 percent of Republicans and 61 percent of others.
"The number that is most significant to me in that whole array are the cross-party ones," DiCamillo said. "It's very unusual for the rank-and-file party members of the opposing party to give a favorable rating."
The poll was conducted after Schwarzenegger and the Legislature reached a deal nearly a month late on a $105 billion budget that avoided tax hikes and limited spending cuts. The deal put many of the more difficult decisions off until the future.
Schwarzenegger apparently was not hurt by calling Democratic legislators "girlie men" whipped by special interests during a July 17 rally in Southern California.
About half of respondents -- 49 percent -- said the governor did a very good or good job in terms of the budget, compared to 13 percent who rated his performance as poor or very poor.
"His numbers are now equivalent to what they were before the whole budget process began," DiCamillo said. "Whatever problems he confronted during the budget process, voters are saying all is well that ends well. His standing with the public remains as strong as it was back in May."
The unpopular Legislature also got a boost, with its approval rating going from 27 percent in May to 33 percent in the latest poll. That's the highest approval rating for the Legislature since it had 35 percent backing in September 2002.
Despite the negative view of lawmakers, the poll showed that the majority of people are opposed to Schwarzenegger's suggestion to switch from a full-time to part-time Legislature. Fifty-two percent opposed that proposal while 33 percent backed it and 15 percent had no opinion.
"There was a lot of speculation on both sides on this issue," DiCamillo said. "It's not being well received. I look at the negative numbers for the Legislature and think that if ever there was a time people would support it now is that time. The issue is much larger than Schwarzenegger and the short-term problems of the Legislature."
The poll, conducted from July 30 through Aug. 8, was based on interviews with 602 likely voters and had a sampling error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.