Former action movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger is finding it much harder to be a hero in real life than in the movies. The Austrian-born California governor has dropped to an all-time low in approval ratings as he struggles to lead the largest US state through a severe economic crisis.
The poll by the Public Policy Institute of California shows just 28 percent of Californians approve of Schwarzenegger's job performance. That's the lowest for any California governor since August 2003, when former governor Gray Davis was forced into a snap recall election.
Only 14 percent of those polled said the state was headed in the right direction, and three out of every four residents said they expected bad financial conditions over the next year, according to the poll.
The poll was taken after Schwarzenegger Tuesday signed a new spending plan that closes the state's $26-billion deficit with severe spending cuts on child welfare programmes, health care for the elderly and the poor, and state parks.
"People are deeply concerned about the direction of the economy and where California is in terms of its fiscal conditions," said Mark Baldasarre, president and CEO of the institute that conduced the poll.
"There's a sense that things are not going well in California, and the public holds the governor and the legislature at least partly accountable, rightly or wrongly."
Schwarzenegger is barred from running again when his current term ends in 2010. Political experts say the Republican governor is paying the price of choosing painful and unpopular cuts over imposing new taxes on the wealthy.
He also set high expectations at the start of his term and has failed to meet them, said political science professor Jack Pitney. "He was going to be an action governor, he was going to blow up the boxes," Pitney said. "Several years later, people are used to him and he has become part of the system he came to office to end."