The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, March 16, 2016 3:55 am

Poll finds majority of Hoosiers want Pence out of office

Niki Kelly | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – A majority of Hoosiers want a new governor, according to a poll released Wednesday by a reputable Republican pollster.

Just under one-third of those polled would re-elect Gov. Mike Pence – 32 percent – while 54 percent favor a new person and the rest were undecided.

"We have not seen any evidence of recovery for Governor Pence since the poll we conducted in mid-April for Howey Politics," said Christine Matthews, of Bellwether Research and Consulting. "In fact, the numbers for him are worse, suggesting that even though (the religious freedom fight) is no longer making headlines, it has not been forgotten.

"This may be one of those situations where a sleeping giant has been kicked and is now wide awake."

The poll showed a decline in Pence’s personal image and ballot strength – resulting in ties with both Glenda Ritz and John Gregg. Both are Democrats running for governor.

The poll results came a day before Pence is set to make his re-election bid official tonight at a private, friendly gathering of Republicans.

Bellwether interviewed 1,000 registered voters statewide between May 29 and June 3. It was paid for by well-known Republican Bill Oesterle, who opposed Pence’s stance on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – or RFRA.

Oesterle previously managed Gov. Mitch Daniels’ election campaign and recently left as CEO of Angie’s List to become more involved politically again.

"When I announced my career change to pursue civic activities, my first step was to begin to understand the landscape in Indiana post-RFRA and post-education session," Oesterle said.

"As part of that process, I asked Chris Matthews and Bellwether Research to conduct a very comprehensive poll and I wanted to share the results. My goal is to inform the discussion as we prepare for the 2015-16 legislative session. It should come as no surprise that I care about a few of these issues."

The question is whether the discouraging numbers will entice any other Republican into the 2016 race.

Democrats, meanwhile, are positioning themselves as the answer.

"Mike Pence can no longer hide from the Hoosiers he ignored when he chose to prioritize his out of touch ideology ahead of the best interests and well-being of Indiana. From opting out of the option to expand early childhood education statewide to putting Indiana in an economic panic after signing RFRA, Mike Pence has only divided the state and caused Indiana to fall behind the rest of the nation," Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody said. "The numbers from this Republican poll show Hoosiers are fed up and know that we can do better than Mike Pence."

The poll found that a majority support amending Indiana’s civil rights law to add sexual orientation and gender identity protections while 32 percent oppose and 14 percent are undecided.

"Civil rights protection will be the next engagement," Matthews said. "The Democrats and Freedom Indiana will work to make this a hallmark issue for the 2016 gubernatorial election. It has the power to especially activate younger voters who may typically be less interested in a gubernatorial election than a presidential one."

But it’s not just civil rights issues that are concerning Hoosiers.

When asked the main reason for wanting a new person to be governor, 17 percent said they disagree with him on education issues.

He has been in a two-year tug-of-war with Democrat Superintendent of Public Instruction Ritz over education policy.

Matthews said one of the subgroups to watch is college-educated women.

"This group decides elections and in Indiana, as nationally, can swing in either direction," she said.

On the latest poll they rate Pence negatively by nearly a 2-to-1 margin. And they vote for Ritz over Pence by nearly 20 points, and Gregg over Pence by 15 points.

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