SAN FRANCISCO – A majority of California voters say they aren't inclined to re-elect Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (search), according to a poll released Wednesday.
If the election were held today, the celebrity governor would face a close contest with two little-known Democrats hoping to challenge him.
The nonpartisan Field Poll (search) found that just 36 percent of voters would support Schwarzenegger if he runs for re-election, while 56 percent would not. In February, those numbers were almost reversed, with 56 percent saying they were in favor of returning the Republican governor for a second term.
Schwarzenegger has not yet announced plans to seek re-election, but he has hinted in recent weeks that he intends to do so soon, possibly around the state Republican convention in Anaheim late next week.
Earlier this year, Schwarzenegger announced he would pursue several "year of reform" ballot measures and a special election aimed at changing the way state government operates. Several of the measures before voters would reduce the power of Democrats and public employee unions.
His job approval has dropped substantially since then amid a torrent of protests and television commercials sponsored by a coalition of Democrat-leaning labor unions.
Schwarzenegger won the state's historic 2003 recall election by winning a substantial minority of Democratic and Hispanic voters. The Field Poll found that 82 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of Hispanics aren't inclined to give Schwarzenegger a second term.
Two Democrats have announced plans to run for governor next year — Treasurer Phil Angelides (search) and Controller Steve Westly (search). The survey found that Schwarzenegger was running neck and neck in matchups with both, even though most voters said they don't know much about either potential challenger.
The poll found that 37 percent of voters had no opinion of Angelides, and 44 percent had no opinion of Westly.
Nonetheless, Angelides got support from 43 percent of poll respondents while Schwarzenegger got 40 percent, with 17 percent undecided. Westly had 42 percent to the governor's 39 percent, with 19 percent undecided.
Separately, the poll found that 52 percent of voters want to re-elect Sen. Dianne Feinstein while 38 percent do not. So far, only one Republican — West Hollywood businessman Bill Mundell — has indicated he might challenge Feinstein, a San Francisco Democrat seeking a third term.
The survey found that in a head-to-head matchup, Feinstein beat Mundell, 56 percent to 30 percent.
The telephone poll of 891 registered voters was taken Aug. 19-29 and had a sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.