Becoming JFK: A Profile in Communication

By Vito N. Silvestri | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11
Election Outcome: TV, Religion, and
African-American Influences

Kennedy believed that, ultimately, television was responsible for his election victory. Elmo Roper's national poll indicated that 57 percent of the voters said they were influenced by television, with another 6 percent citing the televised debates specifically. They represented four million voters, 73 percent of whom voted for Kennedy and 26 percent for Nixon. Theodore White identified that two million of Kennedy's margin of votes was the result of television coverage. Given the closeness of that margin, Kennedy could easily claim television as the influential factor. 1


THE RELIGION INFLUENCE

During the final two weeks of the campaign, Roman Catholicism reappeared as a prominent issue. Three bishops in Puerto Rico forbade Catholics to vote for their incumbent Governor Luis Muñoz Marin. Pastoral letters from the bishops were read to congregations throughout Puerto Rico, criticizing Muñoz for his support of birthcontrol, common law marriages, and opposition to religious education. 2 Muñoz and his supporters waged a strong campaign against the bishops' views and won the election by 90 percent of the vote. The bishops' admonishment, however, became a national issue, widely covered in the United States' press, and was thought to be salient to the presidential campaign. Most American Catholic leaders remained quiet about the Puerto Rican event. 3

Kennedy's position was restated to the public through Pierre Salinger, his press secretary. Wine and his staff responded to the increased mail it brought. Cogley noted that the issue was eclipsed in the news by the intensive efforts of final campaigning by the candidates. 4But James Wine believed previously-held fears among many Americans that the Roman Catholic Church had no tolerance for separation of church and state regardless of what Kennedy had stated, re-emerged during the final weeks of the campaign because of this event in Puerto Rico. 5

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