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Poll: Indiana Voters Dislike Businesses Refusing To Serve LGBT Customers, Frown On Governor

Pollsters found 85% of Hoosiers say business owners should not be allowed to turn away a customer based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Meanwhile, 53% of voters have an unfavorable view of Gov. Mike Pence for signing a religious freedom law compared with 38% who had a favorable impression of him for signing it.

Posted on April 13, 2015, at 4:14 p.m. ET

AP / Darron Cummings

Indiana voters have a bad taste in their mouths over their state's religious freedom law, which recently became a national flashpoint in the debate over whether faith can be used to legally refuse gay customers.

A poll released Monday by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research found that 85% of Hoosiers say business owners should not be allowed to turn away a customer based on sexual orientation or gender identity, even if an owner says homosexuality violates their religious beliefs. Just 12% said a business should be allowed to turn away customers due to religion — 3% did not know or refused to answer.

The poll of Indiana voters was conducted from April 7–9 and commissioned by the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBT advocacy organization.

Gov. Mike Pence had signed a religious freedom law amid furor on April 2.

“Pence and his supporters in the legislature may have imagined this issue energizing their base without any real collateral impact outside of a minority of LGBT activists,” says a polling memo issued by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. “They could not have been more wrong."

At issue was a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which LGBT advocates said could be used by businesses to turn away clients. After an outcry and a plea from Pence to "fix" the bill, legislators approved an amendment that said the law could not be raised as a defense in discrimination cases.

Even despite those revisions, the pollsters found 53% of voters have an unfavorable view of Pence for signing it into law, compared with 38% who had a favorable impression of him approving the law. Meanwhile, 75% of voters said the law and the controversy around it was bad for business.

Overall, the poll also found Pence had a 39% favorability rating to 38% unfavorability rating.

That stands in contrast with a poll from earlier this year — before the religious freedom fracas — when Pence was apparently more popular.

“Governor Pence enjoys a strong approval rating in the state,” said the January report from Public Opinion Strategies, which found Pence’s “approval rating clocks in at an impressive 66%,” with only 29% disapproving.

That poll also found 57% of voters believed the state was headed “in the right direction.” It also found “moral values” was among the lowest priority issue for voters, with only 4% of repondendy naming that is their top prioirity, a fraction of the support of top issues of education and jobs.

JoDee Winterhof, HRC's vice president of policy and public affairs, said in a statement: “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."

Pollsters surveyed 500 likely 2016 voters in the state of Indiana on landlines and cell phones. It has a margin of error of +/- 4.38.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.