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Behind the Numbers
Posted at 01:00 PM ET, 01/19/2009

The President-Elect and the Pastor

Barack Obama's pick of evangelical pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at tomorrow's inauguration was initially met by a torrent of criticism, but it's unlikely to spark broad controversy - most Americans support the idea.

In a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, 61 percent said they back the President-elect's choice of Warren, who rose to national fame for his book A Purpose Driven Life. The evangelical leader also has drawn sharp rebuke from some corners for his unsparing views toward homosexuality. About a quarter of those polled, 23 percent, oppose the choice; 16 percent expressed no opinion.

Obama's pick for the opening prayer has broad, bipartisan support, with 66 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of both Republicans and independents, lining up behind the idea. Support hits 71 percent among white evangelical Protestants, a group that has voted solidly Republican in recent elections, and is at the same percentage among African Americans.

Warren and Obama will likely have a huge audience both in Washington, D.C. and across the country. Nearly three-quarters of all Americans said they'll tune into tomorrow's inauguration, far exceeding the roughly six in 10 who planned to watch Bill Clinton's inaugural on television in 1993, the last time a Democrat took over the White House.

Americans of all political stripes expect to watch or listen to Obama's inauguration, although Republicans are somewhat less apt to say they'll watch the Democrat take the oath of office: 90 percent of Democrats plan to tune in; it's 62 percent among Republicans.

One reason a sizable proportion of Republicans plan to find something else to do tomorrow, may be that six in 10 of them see the event as a political celebration for Obama supporters more than a unifying one, according to a new CNN poll.

Overall, though, six in 10 of all Americans in the CNN poll said they see the inauguration "more as a celebration by all Americans of democracy in action." When President Bush first took office in January 2001, only about a quarter thought so of his inauguration.

Expectations for Obama's speech are also running far higher than they did for Bush four or eight years ago. Forty-four percent of all those polled by CNN said they think Obama will give an "excellent" speech, nearly triple the number anticipating such from Bush before in inaugurations in either 2001 or 2005. (In a recent USA Today-Gallup Poll, expectations for Obama's address run even higher; 56 percent in that poll expect an excellent one.)

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Do you plan to watch or listen to Obama's inauguration next week, or not?

Do you support or oppose the selection of the evangelical pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at Obama's inauguration?

SOURCE: Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted by telephone Jan. 13-16, 2008 among a random national sample of 1,079 adults, including landline and cellphone only respondents. Results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

By  |  01:00 PM ET, 01/19/2009

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