LOS ANGELES (AP) - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger defied the riptide of anger that swept many fellow Republicans from power Tuesday, prevailing despite Californians' dismay with President Bush and the Iraq war, an Associated Press exit poll showed.
The electorate in the nation's most populous state overwhelmingly disapproves of the war and the Republican president but didn't hold it against the Republican governor.
Schwarzenegger beat Democrat Phil Angelides by capturing many self-described liberals and snatching about a fifth of Democratic voters, among them George Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, 41, an oil warehouse supervisor, voted for Schwarzenegger in downtown Fresno. "I think the U.S. isn't forceful enough. We should just get in there in Iraq and take care of it," the registered Democrat said. "But since Bush isn't up for re-election, it's not going to change much."
"Arnold seems stronger and more of a leader than the other guy," Rodriguez said. "He has more backbone."
Yet a majority of those who voted for Schwarzenegger said they believed the governor's positions on the issues are too liberal, an apparent signal of frustration from Republicans.
Schwarzenegger struck deals this year with Democrats on a number of issues that angered fiscal conservatives, including boosting the minimum wage and imposing stringent requirements on industries to limit their emissions of greenhouse gases.
Religious groups sharply criticized him after he signed a bill that allowed same-sex couples to file joint tax returns.
About three out of 10 of those who voted for Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein crossed over to vote for the GOP governor, according to polls of 2,600 voters conducted for AP and television networks by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International.
The survey included 500 absentee voters interviewed by telephone during the past week and their responses were weighted to represent 33 percent of the total sample _ their estimated proportion of the state's electorate. Results were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, higher for subgroups.
Feinstein won a smashing re-election victory over Republican Dick Mountjoy by capturing some seven out of 10 votes from those who identified their views as moderate.
The exit polls offered a portrait of a California electorate uneasy with the Iraq war but relatively satisfied on other important fronts.
A majority think the economy is healthy, and more voters believe than don't believe the country is safer from terrorism than it was before the Sept. 11 attacks.
A majority also is eager to let illegal immigrants working in the United States apply for legal status rather than deporting them. Bush and Schwarzenegger have said a mass deportation of the estimated 11 million immigrants in the country illegally is unrealistic.
Spring protests brought hundreds of thousands to the streets in Los Angeles and other cities, fueled by anger over a House bill that would have made it a felony to be in the country illegally. The Senate's immigration bill left that provision out, and the two chambers failed to reach a compromise.
More than one in 10 voters said they were born outside the United States, reflecting this state's international influences.
California voters also said, by a roughly two-to-one ratio, that a woman should have a legal right to an abortion. Among the initiatives on the California ballot Tuesday was a measure that would require parental notification before a minor has an abortion.
Stephanie Ferreira, 54, a Pleasanton nurse and Democrat, said she voted for Proposition 85. She called it the most important measure on the ballot.
"Having the support when you go through that as a young person is very important," she said.
Karen Hamilton, 30, disagreed. "It's important for a woman to have the right to choose and, unfortunately, there are women who are underage and just not in a position to share it with their parents," she said at her polling place in Antelope, near Sacramento.
Although organized labor has long been a driving force in Democratic politics here, the vast majority of respondents said they do not belong to a union _ a factor that may have hurt Angelides. And of those who were union members, almost half voted for Republican Schwarzenegger.