The religious faith question in the 2012 vice presidential debate: a sequence of events

For the historical record, here is the sequence of events:

On September 17, 2012, 2012 vice presidential debate moderator Martha Raddatz sent the following tweet:

On September 25, 2012, I replied to her invitation with the following tweet:

I elaborated on my suggestion in a Huffington Post article that I wrote on October 7, 2012 (I have no evidence that Martha Raddatz read this article, but neither do I have no evidence that she did not):

Finally, no matter what happens at the 2012 vice presidential debate this week, it will make history for one important reason: both Vice President Biden and Congressman Ryan are devout Roman Catholics. Never before have two Catholics debated each other in a televised presidential or vice presidential debate. Several weeks ago, debate moderator Martha Raddatz petitioned her Twitter followers for debate questions. This was my recommendation: “Vice President Biden, Congressman Ryan, you are both faithful Catholics and yet you both have widely different political beliefs. Please briefly describe how your faith informs your politics and, given that you come to very different political conclusions, what can that teach us about the role of religion in politics today?” This year we have the most religiously diverse set of presidential tickets ever and thus I believe that a question along those lines would be appropriate and timely for voters of a country that is becoming increasingly polarized along religious-secular lines.

Toward the end of the 2012 vice presidential debate on October 11, 2012, moderator Martha Raddatz asked the following question:

This debate is indeed historic. We have two Catholic candidates, first time on a stage such as this, and I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion. Please talk about how you came to that decision. Talk about how your religion played a part in that.

Now, a good social scientist like myself of course is the first to admit that correlation is not causation, nor does temporal priority imply causal effects. However, I think there’s a strong case to be made that the tweet I sent on September 25, 2012 somehow influenced the inclusion of this question in the debate. It’s possible it was a grand coincidence and that 1) Martha Raddatz did not read my tweet and 2) she thought up the question all on her own. However, social scientists also think in terms of probabilities and likelihoods. I think there is a strong case to be made of a likely causal connection of some kind here.

And in that case… whoo-hoo! Thanks for using my question, Martha Raddatz!!!


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