Governor Mike Pence finds himself deeply damaged following the fight over Indiana’s “religious refusal” bill that put LGBT Hoosiers at risk for discrimination, according to a brand new poll of Hoosiers by the HRC. And in a warning sign to governors in other states where similar anti-LGBT bills are pending, a stunning 75 percent of Hoosiers report that Pence’s push for the “religious refusal” bill has damaged Indiana’s business climate. 

In a state that President Obama lost to Mitt Romney by 10 points in 2012, HRC’s new poll, conducted by Greenberg, Quinlan Rosner Research, finds Pence tied 47-47 in a potential matchup with Democrat John Gregg. The findings show a stunning fall for Pence, who showed high public approval ratings as recently as January and February. A survey of Indiana by Republican pollster Public Opinion Strategies in January and February found Pence had a 66 percent approval rating in January and a 62 percent approval rating in February. HRC’s April poll finds Pence’s personal approval rating essentially tied at 39 percent favorable to 38 percent unfavorable. Separately, 53 percent of voters said the RFRA fight gave them a less favorable impression of Pence.

The poll also found strong opposition to allowing businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers. Read GQR’s polling memo on this HERE.

“Elected officials, and governors specifically, who experiment with these anti-LGBT bills that allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT people do so at their own peril,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC Vice President of Policy and Political Affairs. “Hoosiers have said loud and clear not only that they oppose dangerous bills that allow discrimination against LGBT people, but they won’t tolerate politicians like Mike Pence who put his state’s economy at risk in an attempt to further discrimination.”   

HRC’s poll of Indiana voters is the third poll in less than a week to show Americans don’t support so-called “religious refusal” bills that allow businesses to discriminate and deny service to LGBT customers. NBC News and Reuters both reported that a majority of Americans believe businesses should not be allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and should be required to serve all customers.

Hoosiers Believe State on the “Wrong Track,” and that Pence Fight Damaged Indiana Economy

When asked, “Do you believe this law and the controversy surrounding this law have been good for Indiana businesses and the local economy or bad for Indiana businesses and the local economy,” 75 percent of likely voters said the controversy was bad for business. Voters were united across party lines on this sentiment. Independent voters felt the fight was damaging by 72-12, while Republicans said by a margin of 64-13 the controversy damaged Indiana’s economy.

The poll shows that 47 percent of voters think the state is on the “wrong track” versus 43 percent of voters who think the state is on the “right track” a net rating of -4 points. That’s a stark change from Public Opinion Strategies in January. In that poll in January, voters said by 57 to 31 thought the state was on the “right track” – a net rating of +26 points. The change from January to April marked a drop of 30 points.  

Hoosiers Overwhelmingly Believe Businesses Should Not Discriminate   

When asked, “Do you think businesses should or should not be allowed to refuse service to someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” voters said businesses should not discriminate by an overwhelming margin of 70 to 24. A majority of Republican voters (58 to 36) said that businesses should not be allowed to discriminate.

Separately, when asked, “What if the business says homosexuality violates their owners’ religious beliefs, do you believe should or should not be allowed to refuse service to someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity” voters by a margin of 85 to 12 still said businesses should not be allowed to discriminate. This question’s wording and findings are similar to the Washington Post’s national survey on the same issue in 2014.

More Voters Rate Pence Job Performance Negatively, “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” Fight Lowered Voters’ Opinions of Pence

Likely voters were essentially split 39 to 38 when it came to Mike Pence’s personal favorability rating. That marks a steep drop from January, when POS reported that Pence had a 66/29 approval rating. 

On the recent fight over the RFRA, voters were asked, “As you may have heard, Governor Mike Pence recently signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which (Some people say) allows business owners to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and (Other people say) protect business owners from acting against their own religious beliefs.  Generally speaking, do you have a favorable or unfavorable impression of Governor Mike Pence for signing this bill into law?”  

53 percent of likely voters said the debate left them with a less favorable opinion of Pence, while 38 percent said the debate left them with a more favorable opinion of Pence.


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