61% in Poll Back Rick Warren as Invocation Pick

By Jon Cohen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President-elect Barack Obama's selection of the Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration was initially met with a torrent of criticism because of the evangelical pastor's views on homosexuality, but most Americans support the choice.

In a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, 61 percent said they back Obama's invitation to Warren, who gained prominence for his book "The Purpose Driven Life." About a quarter of those polled, 23 percent, oppose the choice, and 16 percent expressed no opinion. Party affiliation had little effect on respondents' views about Warren -- 66 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of both Republicans and independents expressed support for Obama's choice.

The poll results also suggested that Warren and Obama are likely to have a huge audience. Nearly three-quarters of the respondents said they will watch or listen to the inauguration, far exceeding the roughly six in 10 who planned to watch on television when Bill Clinton took the oath of office 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 likely than Democrats: Ninety percent of Democrats plan to make time for the swearing-in, compared with 62 percent of Republicans.

One reason many Republicans plan to find something else to do is that six in 10 of them see the occasion as a political celebration for Obama supporters more than a unifying event, according to a new CNN poll.

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

The Post-ABC poll was conducted by conventional and cellular telephone last Tuesday through Friday among a random national sample of 1,079 adults. The results from the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points; the error margin is higher for subgroups.

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