INDIANAPOLIS | Republican Richard Mourdock's controversial debate remark that pregnancies caused by rape are "something that God intended to happen" may have doomed his bid to represent Indiana in the U.S. Senate, according to the Howey/DePauw Indiana Battleground Poll released Friday.
The Oct. 28-30 telephone survey of 800 likely voters, co-sponsored by The Times, found 47 percent of Hoosiers now support Democrat Joe Donnelly for U.S. Senate while 36 percent plan to vote for Mourdock. Libertarian Andrew Horning is the choice of 6 percent, and 11 percent are undecided. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.
Just six weeks ago, the same poll found the Senate race statistically tied at 40 percent for Donnelly and 38 percent for Mourdock. The latest sample shows Hoosiers soured on Mourdock following the Oct. 23 debate.
According to the poll, 87 percent of likely voters are aware of Mourdock's divine rape remark and 40 percent said the statement made them less likely to vote for the Republican candidate. Just 6 percent reported being more likely to vote for Mourdock after hearing his views on abortion, rape and God's will.
Almost twice as many voters (33 percent) now describe Mourdock as "extreme" compared to the September poll (18 percent). Only 5 percent said they'd classify Donnelly as "extreme," down from 7 percent.
In the race for Indiana governor, Republican Mike Pence still leads Democrat John Gregg, but Pence's lead has shrunk nearly in half.
The latest poll shows Pence favored by 47 percent of likely voters with Gregg the choice of 40 percent. Libertarian Rupert Boneham is supported by 5 percent, and 9 percent are still undecided. Pence led by 13 points in the Sept. 19-23 Howey/DePauw poll.
Television commercials and other efforts by the Gregg campaign and Democratic Party allies tying Pence to Mourdock seem to be paying off, but they're running out of time -- Hoosier voters cast their ballots Tuesday.
The closest statewide race is the battle for superintendent of public instruction, in which incumbent Republican Tony Bennett leads Democrat Glenda Ritz by only 4 points -- 40 percent to 36 percent -- despite Bennett's 4-to-1 campaign cash advantage and near-constant television ads in some parts of the state.
The result shows Hoosiers may be fed up with Bennett's changes to Indiana's schools, which have included turning underperforming public schools over to for-profit operators, adding numerous charter schools and using state tax dollars to pay tuition for students attending religious schools. Bennett also supports basing teacher pay on student test results.
Ritz, an Indianapolis elementary school teacher, wants to reduce the state's reliance on high-stakes testing and prevent Indiana's public schools from being privatized. She believes local school leaders should have more say in state education policies.
Nearly a quarter of voters (24 percent) said they are undecided in the race for state superintendent.
Republican Mitt Romney is on track to win Indiana's 11 electoral votes in the race for president, according to the poll. Romney leads Democratic President Barack Obama 50 percent to 41 percent.
The poll also asked voters about two hot-button issues expected to come before the General Assembly in January -- marijuana laws and a gay marriage amendment to the Indiana Constitution.
On marijuana, 54 percent said they support reducing the penalty for possessing a small amount of marijuana to an infraction, similar to a traffic ticket. Just 37 percent said Indiana should keep marijuana possession a misdemeanor crime.
Hoosiers are nearly evenly divided on whether a ban on gay marriage and civil unions should be added to the state constitution, with 48 percent supporting the proposed amendment and 45 percent opposed. Gay marriage is already prohibited by state law.