A poll measuring Pence’s approval was conducted between April 12 and 14 by Bellwether Research & Consulting not long after Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Bellwether was contracted by Howey Politics Indiana to conduct the poll.
The results showed Pence’s approval rating was only 45 percent compared to a disapproval rating of 46 percent, plummeting by almost 20 percent from his February approval rating of 62 percent.
The backlash from signing the RFRA is the most recent ordeal in Pence’s term to have a negative effect on his image, garnering protests throughout the state, criticism on social media and a rally in front of the Statehouse in Indianapolis attended by several thousand demonstrators.
The Bellwether Research & Consulting poll also surveyed the opinions of Hoosiers on the RFRA law.
When asked if they thought there to have been demonstrated need in Indiana for the legislation, 59 percent said it was not needed, while only 30 percent thought it was needed.
Additionally, 28 percent of respondents thought the legislation was initially designed to “allow discrimination against gays and lesbians.”
It was reported that following the RFRA controversy, Indiana had hired a private public relations firm, Porter Novelli, to help rebuild the state’s reputation with economic ?development and tourism.
Indiana will be spending $2 million with Porter Novelli and a currently unidentified amount on billboards and advertising fees.
In the fallout of Indiana’s now-amended RFRA law, Christy Denault, Pence’s chief of communications, resigned, although in her letter she made no suggestion it had anything to do with communication mishaps that happened after Pence signed the RFRA.
“I am proud to have helped you run a positive, successful campaign,” Denault wrote in her resignation letter. “And I am equally proud to have supported you as you have advanced your road map for Indiana to improve educational opportunities, bring new jobs and improve the health and well-being of our state.”
Indiana Sen. Dan Coats will retire after the next ?election, and this decline in Pence’s approval rating has raised the question of whether or not the Republican Party in Indiana will be able to bounce back from the RFRA criticism and garner enough support to win Coats’ seat.
“I have no idea how that will affect this election — only time will tell,” Coats said. “We don’t know who is going to be running, what positions they are going to take.”
Another of the big communication mishaps in Pence’s administration that caused an uproar throughout Indiana was his plan to establish a state-run news service known as JustIN.
In January, plans from Pence’s administration to operate a taxpayer-funded and state-run news service that would compete with traditional, independent media were released, bringing nationwide criticism to Indiana.
Pence scrapped the idea in a press release shortly after the Indianapolis Star released documents detailing plans for the news service.
“However well intentioned, after thorough review of the preliminary planning and careful consideration of the concerns expressed, I am writing to inform you that I have made a decision to terminate development of the JustIN website immediately,” Pence wrote in a press release.
Referring to the results from the Bellwether Research & Consulting survey, Pence would win in a simulation election against all of the proposed gubernatorial candidates despite his growing disapproval rating, but there is nothing to suggest his status as a potential presidential candidate for the 2016 election.
Pence considered a presidential bid in 2012 and announced at the beginning of the year that he would make a more formal decision on whether or not to run at the end of this legislative session this month.
“Gov. Pence is humbled to be mentioned for the highest office in the land, but he is staying focused on the future of the people of Indiana,” ?Denault said.