Poll: Mike Pence’s “religious freedom” bill may cost him re-election

Mike Pence is in trouble, and he has only himself to blame.

A new poll released by Bellwether Research and Consulting on behalf of former Angie’s List CEO Bill Oesterle shows that, by a 54-32 margin, Indianans don’t think Mike Pence deserves to be reelected. Pence’s approval rating is also underwater, with 34 percent approving and 43 percent disapproving. In general election match-ups, Pence is tied with Glenda Ritz at 42 percent and trails John Gregg, his opponent in 2012, by one point.

The poll was conducted two weeks ago, but was released the day before Pence is scheduled to announce his re-election bid. It shows that the sharp decline in approval rating that Pence experienced during the saga over his Religious Freedom Restoration Act has stuck with him, even as the law itself has faded from the news cycle.

Mike Pence, via Creative Commons

Mike Pence, via Creative Commons

For his part, Oesterle, a Republican, was one of numerous business leaders and public figures from Indiana who came out against the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that Governor Pence signed, then requested edits for, and then resigned back in April. After Indiana’s image took what he described as a “shellacking” as a result of Governor Pence’s stubborn and disingenuous advocacy for the bill, he announced that he was stepping down from Angie’s List to get more actively involved in state politics.

Oesterle’s resignation, expressed interest in entering state politics, commissioning of a poll and timing its release so as to damage Mike Pence’s campaign launch can’t help but make one wonder just how “actively involved” he intends to be. Does he just want to damage Pence, or is he gearing up for a primary challenge? The statement he issued following the poll’s release downplayed the latter possibility, but didn’t nix the idea entirely:

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.  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 2015-2016 legislative session.  It should come as no surprise that I care about a few of these issues.

Even if he has no interest in actually running for office in 2016, Oesterle’s recent actions are but the latest example of the increasing pressure the Republican Party’s business wing is putting on its Evangelical wing to get over itself, as they need to actually win elections in order to keep cutting taxes, rolling back regulations and dismantling the social safety net. For now, that pressure has remained informal, coming in public statements, amicus briefs and carefully-timed polls. But as the Republican Party’s voters catch up to the rest of the country and become less averse to LGBT rights, it’s only a matter of time before we see primary challenges reminding them that discrimination is bad business.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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8 Responses to “Poll: Mike Pence’s “religious freedom” bill may cost him re-election”

  1. mark_in_toronto says:

    Pence is living proof that voting is not your right . . . it is your RESPONSIBILITY.
    Had every Hoosier voted in 2012, this bigoted buffoon would not be the current governor.
    What a sad waste of four years.

  2. Blogvader says:

    They said similar things about Sam Brownback, and he got reelected.

    I’ll believe it when I see it.

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  4. brittman1 says:

    Poor Mike Pence. Gay bashing used to work so well for the GOP. It got George the Incompetent reelected in 2004, But as Governor Pence just discovered, it doesn’t work at all anymore.

    What’s a bigot to do?

  5. nicho says:

    “Republican public servant?” You’ve got to be kidding, right? Holy crap! Talk about an oxymoron.

  6. 2patricius2 says:

    I sure hope so.

  7. dcinsider says:

    Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

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