The non-partisan Public Policy Insitute of California (PPIC) recently published a report on its findings in a state public opinion survey: PPIC Statewide Survey - February 2004 (02/20/04) by Mark Baldassare, research and survey director.
Among other things, this survey casts doubt on the degree to which Schwarzenegger's personal appeal as such is driving support for Proposition 57 ($15 billion bond issue). For instance, at the time of the survey, "Of the 65 percent of voter who know that he supports the bond, 44 percent support it, while 41 percent are opposed."
Perhaps the most significant finding is that partisan polarization in California has notably increased in the last four years:
In the past two-to-four years, the gap has widened between Republicans and Democrats on issues of abortion, the environment, immigrants, gay and lesbian rights, poverty, and homeland security and civil liberties. "Many people have pointed to the redrawing of electoral districts as the reason partisanship has increased in the legislature, but we're finding that California's voters are themselves further apart on many issues than they were just a few years ago, says Baldassare. "If this trend continues, it could make California even more difficult to govern - through representative government or direct democracy [intiatives and referenda]."
This poll's findings don't offer much comfort to Schwarzenegger if he's hoping to build support for a successful run for re-election in a normal primary and election in 2006. With increasing partisan polarization, he will be forced to pander more and more to his Republican base, like he did with his "riots" comment on gay marriages on Meet the Press last weekend. And this increasing partisan polarization will make it more difficult for Schwarzenegger to increase his own and his party's support among the critical Latino voter segment.
Schwarzenegger short-circuited the normal partisan nomination process through the recall process. But in 2006, he'll have to run in the Republican primary. And work with a highly partisan state Republican party between now and then.