Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s approval ratings in Indiana have dropped into the 40s in 2016 polling, which experts in that state largely attribute to his socially conservative positions on LGBTQ issues and abortion, souring women on his leadership.
Despite Pence’s sodden popularity back home, Roll Call reported, through a source, that Pence, Indiana’s governor since 2012, will be Donald Trump’s vice presidential pick. Trump then confirmed the choice on Twitter, and the formal announcement of a Trump/Pence ticket was scheduled for July 16.
Pence is a governor (first elected in 2012), a former Congressman, and a former talk radio host. Trump was drawn by Pence’s Capitol Hill experience, his “calm” demeanor, and their chemistry, Roll Call said. The Indianapolis Star says it has also confirmed the report that it’s going to be Trump/Pence.
But what are Pence’s approval ratings back home? Do Indiana voters think he’s done a good job there?
Calling him “unpopular,” Politico reported: “There are plenty of Republicans in his home state who would be glad to see him abandon his re-election campaign to serve as Donald Trump’s running mate.”
Here’s what you need to know:
Pence’s Approval Ratings Have Been in the 40s in Recent Months
A May 2016 poll showed that Pence’s job performance approval rating in Indiana was 40 percent – way underwater, said the Indianapolis Star. More people – 42 percent – disapproved of his job performance than liked it, said the newspaper. Specifically, the newspaper reported:
About 40 percent approved of his job performance this time, while 42 percent disapproved. During last year’s poll, 46 percent approved and 46 percent disapproved.
The newspaper added that the poll was “conducted by Christine Matthews of Bellwether Research and commissioned by Enterprise Republicans PAC, a group founded by former Angie’s List CEO Bill Oesterle, who has been critical of Pence’s conservative stances on gay rights and other issues.” It was taken May 11-May 15, 2016.
In April 2016, another poll, sponsored by WTHR-TV and Howey Politics Indiana, “found Pence’s overall job approval rating stands at 44 percent, while 41 percent of voters disapprove of him,” said NWI.com.
Just 44 percent of respondents said Indiana is on the right track under Pence, with 45 percent believing the state is headed in the wrong direction. Even 29 percent of Republicans said Pence is leading Indiana astray, according to the poll.
Indiana Talks dug into the details of the May 2016 poll and reported that Pence was in “serious trouble,” finding, “Fully one-third strongly disapprove of his job performance, while 22% strongly
approve. This strong disapproval level is a notch higher than the 31% in our June, 2015 survey at the height of the RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) controversy, although his 22% strong approval rating is higher than the 13% who strongly approved last summer.”
Experts Say Pence’s Record on LGBTQ Issues & Abortion May Have Hurt His Approval Ratings in Indiana
Why have Pence’s approval ratings sunk so low in Indiana? Politico cites three reasons: Pence’s support for the 2015 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which “placed the state center stage in the culture wars” upsetting business leaders, an abandoned plan for a state-run news service, and Pence’s obvious ambitions for higher office outside Indiana.
According to CNN, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which Pence signed, is “a law that allows Indiana businesses to cite their religious freedom as a legal defense.” Civil liberty and gay rights groups argued the law could allow businesses to deny LGBTQ people services.
The Indianapolis Star said Pence signed new abortion restrictions into law “with a prayer,” which might have hurt his polling further. According to NWI.com, the “Pence-enacted law” bars “abortion to pregnant women who learn their babies will be born with a genetic or physical anomaly.”
Pence is a born-again Christian who met his wife, Karen, a school teacher, in church, The Indianapolis Star has reported. Both Pences are described by the Star as “deeply religious.” The Pences have three children.
The Indianapolis Business Journal said in 2015 that Pence’s stances on education were also hurting him, especially with college-aged women.
Pence’s Approval Ratings Have Been Less Than 50 Percent Before
In 2015, Pence’s job approval ratings as Indiana governor also sank below 50 percent, according to WISHTV.
The news site said the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was the moment that Pence’s approval ratings started to slide:
Mike Pence started 2015 on a high. Amid speculation that he might run for President, he focused on matters close to home. But one of the things he focused on backfired: the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA.
How big of a hit did Pence take? According to WISHTV, a 2015 Hoosier Survey showed:
“…just 47 percent of the people in Indiana like his performance. Thirty five percent disapprove of the job being done by Mike Pence.”
Ball State political science professor Ray Scheele told the news site that “this is where RFRA — and some of the other issues that we’ve also polled on — show that Pence really got hurt.” WISHTV said Pence’s approval rating in 2014 was 62 percent, meaning that Pence’s job performance rating with Indiana residents plummeted 15 points in a year.
In June 2015, The Indianapolis Business Journal reported that “Indiana voters favor ousting Gov. Mike Pence from office in the 2016 election, primarily over his handling of education and gay rights issues.”
Mike Pence Was in a Tough Re-Election Contest For Governor & Women Favored His Opponent
Perhaps reflective of his low approval ratings as governor, Pence was fighting to hold onto his gubernatorial seat, which he will now give up to run as Trump’s VP. The race is a rematch; Pence was squaring off against the Democrat he defeated by just three points to win the governor’s office in 2012.
The May 2016 poll also showed that Pence was not facing a sure thing in his re-election bid for governor, with a 40-36 lead over the Democrat in the race, according to the Indianapolis Star. Pence’s job approval ratings dropped from 46 percent in the poll the previous year, said the Indiana newspaper.
A different poll in April 2016 showed Pence leading his Democratic challenger John Gregg 49 percent to 45 percent, with 5 percent undecided, partly because women voters were breaking for Gregg, keeping the race very tight.
That WTHR-TV and Howey Politics Indiana poll in April found a gender gap with women preferring Gregg over Pence, “52 percent to 41 percent,” said NWI.com.