Wednesday, September 18

The popular vote


Charm, recall election, acting career help explain governor's high approval

With the come-from-behind victory of California Propositions 57
and 58, much attention has been focused on what is a likely reason
for victory ““ Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his personal
charisma.

A month before California’s primary election, Propositions
57 and 58 seemed doomed to fail. But on Feb. 10, Schwarzenegger
began a media campaign in support of the propositions.

Not everyone attributes the success of Propositions 57 and 58
solely to Schwarzenegger’s allure.

Other prominent politicians, such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, also
supported the propositions though their efforts were not as well
publicized.

Additionally, many say that because the propositions delay
deficit payment, an approach that tends to be popular among
Americans, passing them was not an amazing feat.

Prior to Schwarzenegger’s media campaign, the Public
Policy Institute of California determined Proposition 57 had only
35 percent support from likely voters.

The measure, which allows California to issue $15 billion in
bonds to cover budget expenses, ended up passing with 63 percent of
the vote. Proposition 58, which sets up future guidelines to ensure
balanced budgets, passed with 71 percent.

The state’s strong support for the two propositions is
reflective of the state’s strong support for the
governor.

At the end of January, the PPIC found 64 percent of likely
voters approved of Schwarzenegger’s performance as governor,
while 58 percent of likely voters disapproved of the
Legislature’s handling of the state budget and taxes.

Since Schwarzenegger has never been a politician before, some
wonder why voters find him so appealing.

The media image he created during his work as a Hollywood actor
is often believed to resonate with voters.

“Politicians work hard to create an idealized version of
themselves, and Schwarzenegger has already done that with his
Hollywood career,” said UCLA psychology Professor Curtis
Hardin.

In particular, the masculinity of Schwarzenegger’s
projected image is found to be alluring.

“A lot of guys want to be him, and a lot of women want to
be with a guy like him,” Hardin said.

“He’s taken on the symbols of masculinity, such as
strength, independence and incorruptibility, and become the
idealization of a kind of man a lot of people want to be
around,” he added.

Matthew Baum, a UCLA political science professor, also noted
that the roles Schwarzenegger tends to play in his movies may have
had an impact that acting alone would not have been able to
produce.

“He’s the image of a superhero, the battler of good
versus evil. That might be just in movies, but it shapes his
real-world persona because that’s what people know him
for,” Baum said.

Schwarzenegger’s self-proclaimed personification of the
American dream by rising from rags to riches is also beneficial to
his image because Americans tend to respect such success
stories.

The unusual circumstances in which Schwarzenegger entered
office, on the heels of an unpopular Gray Davis, have helped garner
public support as well.

“He has the advantage of not being Gray Davis,” Baum
said. “If you come after Mr. Bad, you’re going to look
good for at least awhile.”

Schwarzenegger also came into office after a recall election, an
event many Californians do not want to see repeated again anytime
soon.

In light of this feeling, Californians might be more likely to
embrace the current governor ““ whoever he may be.

Voters might also feel more connected with Schwarzenegger
because he was elected directly by the people without having first
been elected by members of a political party, said political
science Professor Susanne Lohmannn.

As a moderate Republican who connects with middle-of-the-road
voters, Schwarzenegger is also currently experiencing a higher
amount of bipartisan cooperation than expected.

Though Democrats would obviously prefer a Democratic governor,
they are not voicing a large amount of public criticism because
they do not want to be seen as “running against the
wind” and risk losing more offices to Republicans, Baum
said.

Additionally, Schwarzenegger has only recently come into office,
which might help explain his current popularity.

“When a new person comes in, there’s something like
a honeymoon, and people give him the benefit of the doubt,”
Lohmannn said.  

In light of the influence that Schwarzenegger’s celebrity
status has had on his political career, Baum said he expects more
celebrities to enter politics.  

“As politics becomes more personality-centered, it’s
hard not to imagine more celebrities going into politics,”
Baum said.

“No one’s more savvy at promoting themselves than
celebrities.”

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