updated 7/22/2004 10:10:59 PM ET 2004-07-23T02:10:59

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s sky-high popularity has dropped amid deepening partisan divisions over a budget stalemate, according to a poll released Thursday.

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Schwarzenegger, who enjoyed near-record performance ratings two months ago, received approval from 57 percent of Californians in a survey from the Public Policy Institute — 7 percentage points lower than a poll the group conducted in May.

While the Republican’s approval numbers remained high, the survey found most of the drop came among Democrats and independent voters — two groups that had been most enthusiastic about Schwarzenegger’s efforts to remain above the partisan fray.

Pollster Mark Baldassare said the three-week-old budget impasse and Schwarzenegger’s increasingly partisan tone were eroding his support.

“This is the governor who promised he was going to be able to deliver the budget on time,” said Baldassare. “And now he’s caught up with the Legislature in the annual blame game about who is responsible for that not happening, and why.”

The survey is based on telephone interviews with 2,505 adults, taken during a 15-day period ending July 14. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

The survey period did not capture reaction to last week’s events when partisan attacks escalated, including Schwarzenegger’s calling Democrats “girlie men” for not standing up to unions and other special interests.

Margita Thompson, Schwarzenegger’s spokeswoman, said that the governor is not too worried about the dip.

“The bottom line is that the governor is popular,” she said. “He has a unique connection with Californians and he’s going to maintain that connection.”

The governor and Democrats have been accusing each other of holding up the budget.

Talks were stalled for weeks over a plan to finance cities and counties. More recently the governor and Republicans deadlocked with Democrats over the modification or repeal of two labor laws.

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