Senior Fellow in Religion and American Politics, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
08/14/2008 - Given the increased discussion of faith and values in the 2008 presidential campaign, it is perhaps fitting that candidates John McCain and Barack Obama are scheduled to make their first joint appearance of the general election season at an event moderated by Pastor Rick Warren at his 22,000-member Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., on Saturday, Aug. 16.
Warren has billed the event as a “civil forum” to discuss “pressing issues that are bridging divides in our nation, such as poverty, HIV/AIDS, climate and human rights.” Senior Fellow John Green answers questions about what the candidates stand to gain from speaking with Warren, the challenges Warren faces as he attempts to broaden evangelicals’ political agenda and what a major Pew Forum survey says about megachurches and their members.
John Green, Senior Fellow in Religion and American Politics, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
Mark O'Keefe, Associate Director, Web Editorial, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
Question & Answer:
The first joint appearance of these two presidential candidates will be at a church. What is the significance of that?
It’s very significant. One of the hallmarks of the 2008 presidential campaign up to this point has been the increased level of discussion of faith and values. This includes not only the candidates’ own faith and how they connect that faith to their political values but also a general discussion of religion. So it’s quite fitting that the first joint appearance between the presumptive nominees of the major political parties would be in a religious forum.
Why are the candidates devoting so much attention to religion and values?
They are devoting this level of attention because there are votes to be gained by talking about religion and values. Take, for example, the white evangelical Protestant community, which constitutes more than one-fifth of registered voters. An August 2008 survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press shows that McCain leads Obama among white evangelical voters 68% to 24%. In June, McCain's lead was slightly smaller (61% to 25%). The August survey also shows that the candidates remain virtually tied among a crucial group of swing voters, white non-Hispanic Catholics (44% for Obama, 45% for McCain). In addition, there are the members of mainline Protestant churches that the candidates would like to impress. This forum with Rick Warren fits in very well with what we know about the strategies of both of these campaigns to reach out to these key religious groups, any one of which could make a difference in a close election.
Read the complete transcript The Purpose-Driven Campaign: The Candidates' Forum With Rick Warren on the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Web site.