Poll finds Holcomb popular among Republicans even as potential successors keep distance

Gov. Eric Holcomb speaks following a Statehouse event on Dec. 1, 2023. (Credit: Mark Curry)

Apr 11, 2024

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb remains popular among Republicans, according to a State Affairs/Howey Politics Indiana poll, even as the GOP candidates to take his place have kept their political distance from him.

The polling results released Thursday show Holcomb with an overall positive job-approval rating of 69% among self-identified Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.

The results found 23% strongly approving of Holcomb’s seven-plus years as governor, with 46% saying they somewhat approved. The poll found 15% somewhat disapproved and 7% disapproved of Holcomb, with 9% unsure.

Holcomb’s approval rating among those Republicans topped the 59% for U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, who is running for governor, and 55% for U.S. Todd Young, who easily won reelection two years ago. Former President Donald Trump had an 83% approval/17% disapproval mark.

Despite the positive approval rating for Holcomb as he nears the end of his second term as governor, none of the six candidates running for the Republican nomination has embraced him.

Asked during a March 26 debate to grade Holcomb’s time as governor, Braun gave him a “B-minus”; Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch responded, “With the economy that would be an ‘A.’ With COVID, that would be a ‘C.’” Eric Doden gave no grade.

Brad Chambers, who served as Holcomb’s state commerce secretary, gave his former boss an “A” but has focused his campaign on presenting himself as an “outsider” and citing former Gov. Mitch Daniels — not Holcomb — as a leader he would emulate.

Michael O’Brien, who was Holcomb’s 2016 campaign manager, said those candidates are facing a “loud minority” of Republicans angry with the restrictions Holcomb imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Regardless of what the data shows, the perception is that there’s some political risk in wrapping your arms around the current administration,” O’Brien told State Affairs. “Other than Braun with Trump and Chambers with Mitch, none of them are really aligning themselves with other officeholders or previous officeholders.”

Ken Alper, president of the polling firm SurveyUSA, said Holcomb’s approval rating was a “pretty solid number.”

“It’s not surprising to see a governor, in general, to be doing significantly better than senators,” Alper said. “I think people are often much happier with the way their state is run than the way the federal government is running.”

Holcomb’s continued solid approval rating comes at a time when Trump is generally the only politician getting high marks among Republicans, said O’Brien, who is president of the Statehouse lobbying firm 1816 Public Affairs Group and is supporting Crouch’s gubernatorial campaign.

“Eric Holcomb is not a ‘red meat, go pound on the podium, yell at the federal government’ kind of guy,” O’Brien said. “He’s just more measured in nature. He’s trying to get consensus. He’s not the last angry man in politics, and that’s just kind of the environment we’re in.”

The approval ratings come from a survey of 700 Republicans or Republican-leaning independents conducted April 4-7 by SurveyUSA. The margin of error on those questions was 3.8 percentage points.

Among other poll results:

  • On whether Indiana is heading in the right direction, 43% of respondents said the state was on the right track, while 39% responded that it was on the wrong track. For the country as a whole, 87% said the U.S. was on the wrong track, with 8% supporting the nation’s direction.
  • Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Banks is largely unknown among GOP voters despite his commanding position to succeed Braun in the U.S. Senate and being unopposed on the May 7 primary ballot. The poll found 55% of respondents were not familiar with Banks, while 34% had a favorable opinion of him, compared to 10% unfavorable.
  • Former Vice President Mike Pence remains mostly popular among Indiana Republicans — although far behind Trump. Pence was regarded favorably by 62%, with 34% disapproval. Trump had an 83% approval mark.

Tom Davies is a Statehouse reporter for State Affairs Pro Indiana. Reach him at [email protected] or on X at @TomDaviesIND.

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