Poll: Few opposed to Rick Warren giving inaugural prayer

WASHINGTON DC, USA - Despite the “big” controversy fuelled by the US media about Rick Warren giving the inaugural prayer on Tuesday, few Americans seem to know about the selection, let alone disapprove of it.

More than half of Americans (52 percent) say they don’t know enough about the decision to have an opinion, according to a Gallup Poll released on Monday. Among Americans that do have an opinion, only nine percent disapproved of the decision to have Warren give the invocation at the inaugururation.

In contrast, 39 percent approved of President-elect Barack Obama’s choice of the “Purpose Driven” pastor.

Since December when it was announced Warren would give the invocation, media reports have highlighted the outrage and frustration of gay rights supporters over the decision.

Critics of Warren pointed out that he had supported the California measure Proposition 8 that defined marriage as between one man and one woman and essentially overturned the state’s short-lived gay marriage ruling by the California Supreme Court.

Gay rights supporters held protests at Warren’s Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif. after Proposition 8 won the majority of votes. They again staged a demonstration this past Sunday in a last attempt to stop Warren from giving the inaugural prayer.

But despite these stories of anger and protest, the Gallup poll shows that less than a tenth of Americans in general disapprove of the megachurch pastor’s upcoming role in the inauguration.

Even most Democrats and self-described liberals support Obama’s choice of Warren. Among Democrats, 37 percent approved of Obama’s selection compared to 10 percent that disapproved. A similar proportion was seen among liberals, 39 percent approving and 16 percent disapproving.

As expected, the approval rating was much higher among Republicans and conservatives.

Nearly half of Republicans (48 percent) approved of Obama’s decision to have Warren give the inaugural prayer, compared to 9 percent that disapproved. The number was slightly higher among conservatives with 50 percent approving and 7 percent disapproving.

The Gallup Poll report concluded, “News media accounts of negative reactions to President-elect Barack Obama’s decision to select Rick Warren to deliver the Inaugural prayer appear to reflect more of the vocal positions of interest groups than an opinion that is shared by the majority of the American public.”

The results are based on telephone interviews with 1,046 US national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Jan. 16-17, 2009.