Poll: Indiana Republicans care about economy, border going into election

Residents fill the sidewalk on a warm spring day in downtown Indianapolis. (Credit: Mark Curry)

Residents fill the sidewalk on a warm spring day in downtown Indianapolis. (Credit: Mark Curry)

Apr 12, 2024

Republican primary voters care most about the economy and immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a State Affairs/Howey Politics Indiana poll released Thursday. 

More than three-quarters of poll respondents said the economy was a key issue motivating them ahead of the May 7 primary election. 

Marjorie Hershey, professor emeritus of political science at Indiana University, said the nation’s financial future is a complicated issue. 

On the one hand, many aspects of the economy have improved under President Joe Biden, she said. But one key factor changes the math for many voters.

“Inflation is probably the economic indicator that is most accessible to the most people,” Hershey said. “People see inflation every time they go to the supermarket, every time they go to purchase anything.”

The online poll, conducted by SurveyUSA, interviewed 700 Republican and Republican-leaning independents from April 4-7. Its margin of error was 3.8 percentage points. 

From that group, 447 likely voters were asked to identify three major issues from a list of eight possibilities. 

State Affairs focused on Republican and Republican-leaning voters due to the competition for the party’s gubernatorial nomination. Jennifer McCormick, former superintendent of public instruction, is running unopposed in the Democratic primary. 

Indiana’s Republican gubernatorial candidates have focused their TV ads and public statements on issues such as tax reform and economic development. 

Looking beyond the country’s finances, about 68% of respondents chose the border and 43% identified crime as factors in their upcoming voting decisions. 

“[The results] were largely on par with the nation,” said Ken Alper, president of SurveyUSA. “The economy usually dwarfs other issues.” 

The poll yielded more concern about the border than expected, he said, especially given Indiana is not in close proximity to Mexico. 

“Crime also wasn’t as close to the economy, despite a lot of national messaging,” Alper said. 

James McCann, a political science professor at Purdue University, said the border’s significance to poll respondents was likely due to the national conversation driven by the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee, former President Donald Trump. 

“If you asked a lot of Hoosiers, ‘Do you know immigrants? Have you been to the border?’ … you’re not going to see a great deal of concern,” McCann said. “But the way the border has become politicized, it’s a reflex response in polls.” 

Health care (28%), abortion (19%), education (17%), fentanyl use (15%) and civil rights (5%) rounded out the list of top issues. Just 3% of the likely voters said an issue not in the poll’s options was their primary motivator. 

Men and women responded similarly when asked about motivating topics, save for one: About 23% of women identified abortion as a key issue, compared to 16% of men. 

Older voters tended to care more about the border, while younger respondents focused more on education and civil rights. 

Urban, suburban and rural voters were evenly split on most issues with the exception of crime, which was less of a concern for city dwellers. 

In the poll, Sen. Mike Braun led the Republican field for Indiana governor, with 44% of respondents signaling their support. 

Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch was a distant second with 10%. Former state Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers and Fort Wayne businessman Eric Doden, who have each spent millions on the campaign, received 8% of support. Former Attorney General Curtis Hill and conservative activist Jamie Reitenour secured 2%. 

Braun polled consistently on the issues, with about 40%-50% on each across the board. 

McCann was not surprised at Braun’s position.

“What Braun has going for him is not only the Trump endorsement but sizable statewide recognition,” McCann said. “He’s used his Senate resources to improve that. There’s a general halo effect from that, so I can’t imagine you’re seeing granular distinctions across the issues.

“People have a generally positive view,” McCann said of Braun. “He has an afterglow.” 

Contact Rory Appleton on X at @roryehappleton or email him at [email protected]

And subscribe to State Affairs so you do not miss an update.

X @stateaffairsin

Facebook @stateaffairsin

Instagram @stateaffairsin

LinkedIn @stateaffairs

Know the most important news affecting Indiana

Get our free weekly newsletter that covers government, policy and politics that impact your everyday life—in 5 minutes or less.