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Field Poll shows Schwarzenegger leading Angelides by 8 points

By Mark DiCamillo and Mervin Field

July 25, 2006

The latest statewide Field Poll updates voter preferences in the November gubernatorial election. Among the survey's main findings are these:

- Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger continues to lead Democratic State Treasurer Phil Angelides in voter preferences. The survey shows Schwarzenegger to be the choice of 45% of likely voters. Angelides receives 37% support, 3% favor other candidates and 15% are undecided.

- Republicans are rallying strongly behind Schwarzenegger, with 85% supporting the Governor. On the other hand, Angelides has not yet achieved the high level of support that successful Democratic candidates typically receive among their party's rank-and-file, with less than two in three (63%) currently backing his candidacy.

- Most voters are basing their voting preferences on how they regard Schwarzenegger. About two thirds of Schwarzenegger's voters (65%) say their vote is more an endorsement of the Governor than a vote against Angelides. On the other hand, two-thirds of Angelides voters (65%) say their preference is more a vote against the Governor than an endorsement of Angelides.

- The issue of immigration, followed by taxes, are the issues most important to Schwarzenegger's backers in deciding whom they will support for Governor. By contrast, the issues most important to Angelides backers are education and health care.

- For the first time since February of last year, more voters (49%) approve of Schwarzenegger's job performance than disapprove (40%). In addition, voter impressions of the direction the state is heading have become more positive than negative for the first time since September 2004.

Schwarzenegger holding the lead

Throughout the summer and fall of last year, Schwarzenegger trailed Angelides in voter preference. However, by February of this year the Governor drew even with Angelides and, beginning in April, took a small lead. Now he is eight points ahead (45% to 37%) of the State Treasurer. Three percent of voters prefer other candidates and 15% are undecided.

Differences in how voter sub-groups are dividing

Schwarzenegger is the overwhelming choice of registered Republicans in this state, capturing almost 85% of their preferences.

By contrast, Angelides, who narrowly won a bitterly fought Democratic primary election against State Controller Steve Westly, has not yet rallied a high level of support from his own party members. A little less than two in three of Democrats (63%) are currently supporting the State Treasurer, while 16% prefer the Governor, 2% favor other candidates and a sizeable 19% are undecided.

Schwarzenegger holds a 9-point lead (49% to 40%) in the Central Valley and maintains a huge preference margin (61% to 27%) among voters in Southern California outside of Los Angeles County.

Angelides leads the Governor by 10 points in the San Francisco Bay Area (44% to 34%) and by 11 points in Los Angeles County (44% to 33%)

Women are about evenly dividing their preferences and give the Governor a narrow two percent advantage, whereas men prefer Schwarzenegger by 13 points.

White non-Hispanics are lining up heavily for Schwarzenegger 52% to 32%. By contrast, Latinos heavily prefer Angelides (58% to 22%), while other ethnic voters support the Democrat by a 43% to 32% margin.

There are big differences in voter preferences by age. Voters in the 18 to 44 year age bracket prefer Angelides 46% to 34%. However, those voters 45 to 54 are lining up on the side of the Governor, 46% to 40%. Those age 55-64 back Schwarzenegger 51% to 30%, while voters in the 65 and older age group support the Governor by a greater than two to one margin (56% to 26%).

Voters living in union households, who account for about 25% of the likely voters in this survey, prefer Angelides by a 45% to 41% margin. However, among the non-union households representing 75% of the likely electorate, Schwarzenegger is preferred 46% to 35%.

Voter choices at this stage are mainly about Schwarzenegger

Two thirds of those supporting Schwarzenegger (65%) say their preference is more a vote for the Governor than a vote against Angelides. However, the situation is reversed in the case of Angelides, with 65% of his supporters saying their preference is more a vote against Schwarzenegger than a vote for Angelides.

Almost three times as many expect Schwarzenegger to win as believe Angelides will win

Apart from whom voters personally prefer, greater than six in ten of the state's electorate (61%) think the Governor will be re-elected, while just 24% expect Angelides to prevail. Voters currently supporting Schwarzenegger are very confident, with 86% expecting their man to win and just 4% thinking Angelides will win. By contrast, one in three (33%) of those supporting the Democrat think he will lose to the Governor, while 49% think Angelides will win. Undecided voters as well as those supporting other candidates also believe Schwarzenegger will win re-election by a 54% to 21% margin.

Voter impressions of the candidates are more positive than negative

Last October, just before the special election called by the Governor to enact a series of reforms which the voters ultimately rejected, Schwarzenegger's standing with voters was much more negative than positive, with 54% viewing him unfavorably and 38% holding a favorable view. In two subsequent Field Poll surveys taken earlier this year, voter perceptions of the Governor became somewhat less critical, with opinions more evenly divided. Now, for the first time since February of last year, more voters view the Governor in a favorable than unfavorable light (51% to 44%).

Last May, immediately prior to the June election, a relatively large proportion of voters (39%) did not have an opinion of Angelides. Among those who had an impression of the State Treasurer, opinions were more unfavorable than favorable (34% to 27%). Now, following his primary election win, greater than three in four voters have an opinion of Angelides, and more voters regard him in a favorable than unfavorable light (41% to 38%). One in five (21%) currently has no opinion of the State Treasurer.

Relative importance of eight issues in the governor's race

Likely voters in this survey were asked how important they felt each of eight specific issues were to them in making up their minds about whom they will support for governor. Voters were asked to say whether an issue was among the most important, an important issue but not among the most important, or not important.

While each of the eight issues is seen as having some degree of importance to large majorities of voters overall, two issues - illegal immigration (at 44%) and education (at 43%) - are rated as among the most important by the largest proportions of voters. Four other issues - health care (36%), jobs/economy (36%), gasoline prices/energy (32%) and taxes (31%) - receive the next highest proportions. Somewhat smaller proportions of voters rate environmental protection and crime/prisons, at 26% and 24% respectively, as being among the most important.

Each candidate's supporters rate the issues differently

There are considerable differences in the way supporters of Schwarzenegger and Angelides rate the importance of these eight issues.

A majority (56%) of those supporting Schwarzenegger considers immigration as among the most important issues in deciding whom they will support in the general election. The issue of taxes receives the next highest proportion (40%) saying it is among the most important issues among voters backing Schwarzenegger.

By contrast, the issue priorities of Angelides supporters are quite different. Two issues - education and health care - are rated by larger proportions of these voters as being among the most important issues to them when deciding whom they will support for governor. Among undecided voters, education stands out as the issue which a majority considers among the most important in the upcoming gubernatorial election.

Schwarzenegger's job performance now viewed positively

For the first time since February 2005, more voters now say they approve (49%) than disapprove (40%) of Schwarzenegger's job performance. In six prior Field Poll surveys conducted between June 2005 and May 2006, pluralities of voters ranging from five to nineteen points had registered disapproval of Schwarzenegger.

Opinions of the governor's job performance are highly partisan. Republicans give him an overwhelmingly positive rating (80% to 15%), while Democrats are more than two to one negative (60% to 26%) in their appraisals. Non-partisans are more positive than negative of Schwarzenegger's performance by a 46% to 38% margin.

Perceptions of the state's overall direction improve

In another significant change in voter mood, 47% now think the state is headed in the right direction while 41% believe it is on the wrong track. In seven prior surveys conducted between February 2005 and May 2006, substantial majorities of voters were more pessimistic than optimistic in their feelings about the direction of the state.

Republicans are considerably more confident that the state is now on the right track than either Democrats or non-partisans. Among Republicans 63% believe the state is moving in the right direction, whereas among Democrats and non-partisans just 40% and 35%, respectively, feel this way.


The findings in this report are based on a random sample survey of 992 Californians registered to vote, of whom 731 can be considered likely voters in the November 7 general election. Interviewing was conducted by telephone in English and Spanish between the period July 10-23, 2006.




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