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Does Arnold's Appeal Extend Beyond California?

Does Arnold's Appeal Extend Beyond California?

by Darren K. Carlson

Although Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of more than 100 candidates seeking the California governor's office, his superstar status has made him the most talked-about gubernatorial candidate -- if not the front-runner -- in the recall election. Schwarzenegger's campaign draws an obvious parallel to the career of another Republican movie actor who sought (and won) the governorship of California. Ronald Reagan served two terms as California's governor in the 1960s and '70s and eventually became the nation's 40th president.

But even if Schwarzenegger does become the next governor of California, that's probably where the career parallels will end.

Law Would Prevent Schwarzenegger Run for President

Unlike Reagan, Schwarzenegger was not born in the United States -- the former body-builder was born in Austria. Although Schwarzenegger is now a U.S. citizen, the Constitution precludes anyone who was not born in the United States from becoming president. And the American public doesn't seem too keen on changing that provision. According to an Aug. 25-26 Gallup Poll*, a majority of Americans (70%) say they would oppose amending the Constitution to allow a U.S. citizen who was born in a foreign country to be elected president. A little more than a quarter (28%) would favor such an amendment.

Older Americans, those aged 65 and older, are somewhat less likely (21%) than Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 (31%) to favor such an amendment. Political ideology plays a role in opinion of the hypothetical amendment. More than a third of liberals (36%) favor the idea, compared to 24% of conservatives. Moderates' opinions fall in the middle, with 28% favoring the idea.

What About in Your State?

If the law were changed, would Schwarzenegger have political appeal beyond Hollywood's home state? An earlier CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll showed that Californians viewed Schwarzenegger favorably -- but what would the public think if Schwarzenegger were running for governor in their state?

About 4 in 10 Americans (42%) say they would vote for Schwarzenegger if he were running for governor in their state, while slightly more than half (53%) say they would not. A Schwarzenegger candidacy would have the most appeal to younger Americans. Half of 18- to 29-year-olds (51%) say they would vote for Schwarzenegger, compared to 44% of 30- to 49-year-olds. The percentage saying they would vote for Schwarzenegger drops to 37% among 50- to 64-year-olds and 32% among those 65 and older. There are no differences between men and women, 42% of each group indicated they would vote for the actor.

Opinion also varies by region. Half of the residents of the West (including California) say they would vote for Schwarzenegger. Slightly more than 4 in 10 would vote for him in the South (42%) and East (41%). In the Midwest, little more than a third (34%) would vote for Schwarzenegger if he ran for governor in their state.

And Schwarzenegger's alliance with the Republican Party helps explain his greater appeal to Republicans (52% of whom say they would vote for Schwarzenegger) than to independents (38%) and Democrats (35%).

*Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,009 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Aug. 25-26, 2003. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

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