August 19th, 2010
01:02 AM ET

Only a third of Americans say Obama is Christian; almost one in five say he's Muslim

President Obama speaking in a Washington church earlier this year.

A substantial and growing chunk of the country believes that President Obama, a self-described Christian, is Muslim, while only about a third of Americans are able to correctly identify his religion, according to a survey released Thursday.

Nearly one in five Americans believe Obama is a Muslim, up from around one in 10 Americans who said he was Muslim last year, according to the survey, conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

While most of those who think Obama is Muslim are Republicans, the number of independents who believe he is Muslim has expanded significantly, from 10 percent last year to 18 percent now.

The number of Americans who express uncertainly about the president's religion, meanwhile, is much larger and has also grown, including among Obama's political base. For instance, fewer than half of Democrats and African-Americans now say that Obama is Christian.

In March 2009, 36 percent of African-Americans said they didn't know what religion Obama practices. Now, 46 percent of African-Americans say they don't know.

"You would think the longer the person is in the White House, the more the 'don't knows' would decline," said Alan Cooperman, the Pew Forum's associate director for research. "But the 'don't knows' are higher now than when he came to office."

The survey was conducted in late July and early August.

Though Obama advertised his Christianity on the campaign trail and early in his administration - including distributing pamphlets about his religion during the 2008 presidential race and inviting the Rev. Rick Warren to his inauguration - he has been less public about his faith since then.

Despite intense media speculation about which Washington church Obama would join, for example, the White House has yet to announce that he has joined any.

"We had eight years of George W. Bush, who was very public about religious debates and high profile about religious practice and that's followed by Barack Obama, who is much lower profile about religious beliefs and practices," Cooperman said.

"It could be that in the relative vacuum of information coming out of the White House about his personal religious beliefs, others step in to feel the breach," Cooperman said. "It allows others who say that 'Oh, he's really this or that' to gain some currency."

Joshua DuBois, executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, said Wednesday night that Obama has "expanded in a historic way the engagement of persons of faith by this administration."

The president has given six speeches on faith issues, DuBois said, and has launched the first-ever White House advisory council for the faith-based office, composed largely of religious leaders.

"A lot of these facts are not necessarily what the public and the media are focused on everyday, which is not surprising given the issues we're facing as a country: reforming health care, bringing the troops home from Iraq and the economic recovery," DuBois said in an interview.

False rumors that Obama is Muslim have dogged him since he declared his candidacy for president in 2007. Pew conducted its survey before the president's comments last week about the right of Muslims to proceed with a controversial proposal for an Islamic center and mosque near ground zero.

The Rev. Joel Hunter, a Florida evangelical who is in frequent touch with Obama, says their relationship belies the findings of the new survey.

"He is very definitely a Christian, but a lot of the things he does to work on spiritual formation are simply not public," Hunter said.

Hunter said that he is in weekly contact with the president about his spiritual life, including writing devotionals for Obama and praying with him via telephone. Hunter said he received a call from Air Force One on the president's 49th birthday earlier this month.

"Several of us (Christian pastors) prayed with him over the phone," Hunter said. "We talked about his life and what he wanted us to pray for and it was at his initiative."

Earlier, when the president learned Hunter's grandchild had been stricken with cancer, the Florida preacher said he received a call from the White House.

"He called and told me that he and Michelle were praying for us," Hunter said, referring to the first lady. "I explained that this was an aggressive form of cancer and he pastored me, saying the Lord would be with us through this and that we should trust in God. It was a real reversal of roles."

But Hunter said the administration may want to reconsider its messaging on religion in light of the Pew poll.

"It may be time for them (the White House) to be a little more public about what the president does to be an active Christian," he said.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Barack Obama • Christianity • Politics • Polls

soundoff (1,651 Responses)
  1. Aaron Klehn

    For such an advanced technological society we are still in the middle ages socially; maybe we should start a crusade, burn some witches, ban "commies" and gather around a good ole book burning bonifire. ( oh that's right; we have our own extremists that are planning that already) Maybe we should concentrate on educating the masses on tolerance(what some Islamic leaders are doing), and real history of the Western Civilization instead of believing what the media spoon feeds us. Obama isnt a Muslim...but if he was...so what? Extrmist thinking is the real "axis of evil", and doesnt apply to just the middle east; the U.S. has equal/more blood on our hands than anyone else...............

    August 19, 2010 at 8:02 am |
  2. robrepp

    1st amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..... To the people who claim there is no moderate Islam, educate yourself. Yeah there is a couple of Muslims and Christians making a roadtrip and its got nothing to do with Obama.

    August 19, 2010 at 8:01 am |
  3. Pink Hijab

    I am disgusted by so many comments out here... So what if he was a muslim? Are you going to tell me that i must tell my children that they can never dream of becoming a president because we are muslim? Just like your old folks did when they had to tell their kids , we can't walk on this side of the street or take a seat on the bus because we are black?
    Shame on you people!

    August 19, 2010 at 8:00 am |
  4. betty b

    Why should I keep trying to post a comment...you are not going to print it! It is not as negative as you wish it to be!

    August 19, 2010 at 7:59 am |
  5. Mike

    So... at least 1 in 5 Americans are astoundingly ignorant

    August 19, 2010 at 7:59 am |
  6. Historian

    The reason for this belief is that he is a prolific liar and if he claims to be a Christian most of us who got burned by thinking he was a centrist during the last campaign have to believe he's something else. BTW You can tell he's lying if his lips are moving.

    August 19, 2010 at 7:58 am |
    • Dumbectomy

      You have misspelled "Hysterian".

      August 19, 2010 at 8:23 am |
  7. Dawn Lambe

    I guess it's no surprise. A recent studty found that 1 in 5 Americans were morons.

    August 19, 2010 at 7:57 am |
  8. Cletus

    One in five are inbred hayseeds from the South.

    August 19, 2010 at 7:56 am |
  9. betty b

    What is actually wrong with America? Our president, Barack Obama, has had nothing but an uphill battle since he became the first black president....the media crucifies him. Before he became president, he was a member of a black baptist church in Chicago. Why was he not displaying Muslim religion? America! Wake up and smell the coffee, the Lord almighty put president Barack Obama in office....just wait awile, you will another chance to choose another president...Give him a chance...the news is becoming disgusting....only thing the media cares about is making One seem small and degraded by false reports.

    August 19, 2010 at 7:56 am |
    • Aaron Klehn

      Good Response. I guess this country is truly the land of the free and brave............but only if you are a WASP( white anglo-saxon protestant) . I guess we havent learned much in the last several hundred years; is it a wonder why other countries consider us ignorant, capitalistic, and imperialistic ?

      August 19, 2010 at 8:17 am |
  10. DAP

    Who cares? There is no constitutional requirement that the President must practice a specific religion or any religion. Move on to something important.

    August 19, 2010 at 7:56 am |
  11. osm1 an

    Wow, so that means that 1 in 5 are really really not at all smart, it's kinda sad!

    August 19, 2010 at 7:55 am |
  12. Modguy

    This is chilling...

    In 1952 President Truman established one day a year as a "National Day of Prayer."

    In 1988 President Reagan designated the First Thursday in May of each year as the National Day of Prayer.

    In June 2007 (then) Presidential Candidate Barack Obama declared that the USA Was no longer a Christian nation.

    This year President Obama canceled the 21st annual National Day of Prayer ceremony at the White House under the ruse Of "not wanting to offend anyone"

    On September 25, 2009 from 4 am until 7 pm, a National Day of Prayer for the Muslim religion was Held on Capitol Hill, Beside the White House. There were over 50,000 Muslims that Day in D.C.


    I guess it Doesn't matter if "Christians" Are offended by this event – We obviously Don't count as "anyone" Anymore.

    The direction this country is headed should strike fear in the heart of every Christian especially knowing that the Muslim religion believes that if Christians cannot be converted, they should be annihilated.

    This is not a Rumor Go to the website To confirm this info:
    ( http://www.islamoncapitolhill.com/ )

    Pay particular attention to the very bottom of the page: "OUR TIME HAS COME" I hope that this information will stir your spirit.

    August 19, 2010 at 7:55 am |
    • not a fan


      hi Reality. We didn't miss you.

      August 19, 2010 at 8:04 am |
    • Kevin

      Your use of the word "national" in mentioning the Muslum prayer event gives the impression that it was formally endorsed by the federal government, including the White House. That is so dishonest of you, especially for someone who apparently considers himself a Christian. It was not held at the White House nor was it endorsed by the WH.


      August 19, 2010 at 9:42 am |
    • Bobolink

      Your faith seems shaky for you are afraid of almost everyone who is not you. Please get some help.

      August 19, 2010 at 10:26 am |
  13. michael

    Good god, hard to be proud to be an american when you live in a country that loves to hate and doesn't bother to educate themselves. Keep listening to the extreme right folks, you may call yourself christian but they certainly don't follow the teachings of jesus, "love thy neighbor as thyself". What a bunch of self rightous idiots you are.

    August 19, 2010 at 7:55 am |
  14. StarChamber

    I'd say more like four in five believe he's a Muslim. Maybe it's because he persecutes Christians, prays at mosques, hosts Ramadan parties at the White House, and bashes the US every chance he gets. He's out of control.

    August 19, 2010 at 7:54 am |
    • Juni

      Wow, StarChamber. Every single thing you said is a flat-out lie. He hasn't done a single one of those things. Way to go, fool.

      August 19, 2010 at 11:10 am |
  15. Terry - Indiana

    Is it possible, just possible, that the POTUS is a closet Muslim? We have Romney, who is a Mormon, and I can tell you that I would rather have a Muslim as my president than a Mormon. John Kennedy was a Catholic, and I think he did a good job, especially during the Cuban Nuclear Missile Crisis. Yes, I can accept a Muslim, but no Mormon.

    August 19, 2010 at 7:53 am |
  16. Ralph Malph

    Hussein Obama may not be an "admitted" Muslim but look at the facts. His father and uncle were both devout Muslims. Young Hussein attended Muslim schools. President Hussein Obama has travelled the world kissing the butts of Muslims and bowing to Saudi Kings. Now, Hussein Obama, has the nads to throw his support for a mosque at Ground Zero. Lets not forget his praise of Islam at the start of Ramadan. If only we had more evidence..........hmmmmmmmmm

    August 19, 2010 at 7:53 am |
  17. Don Prater

    I say Gobama! Why get tied up with either of these wacky religions. Wahhabi or Christian Fundamentalist, not much difference in the two.

    August 19, 2010 at 7:51 am |
  18. Gordon R Shumway

    The big question then is whether the 20% who believe he is a muslim are correct or the 80% who believe he's a Rev Wright Christian are correct.

    Guess it all depends on which facade looks most like him, because the real Obama has yet to show his face.

    August 19, 2010 at 7:51 am |
  19. Rob Indy

    "False rumors that Obama is Muslim have dogged him since he declared his candidacy for president in 2007."

    False rumors? I guess CNN has magical powers and knows for a solid fact that O is indeed a Christian, despite his father being a muslim, oh, and his schooling in Indonesia, oh and that pesky Hussein name, but CNN is never wrong so I guess I'm just a dope for doubting Dear Leader.

    August 19, 2010 at 7:51 am |
    • Whatdoyouexpect

      Well, your name is christian and means 'Bright", I guess there is really nothing to a persons name!!!!!

      August 19, 2010 at 8:15 am |
    • civiloutside

      A lot of people seem to like bringing up the fact that his father was Muslim as evidence that Obama must be Muslim. Are you perhaps not aware that Obama's father divorced his mother and moved to Kenya when Barrack was only 3 years old? i.e. that time in one's life when one knows church only as "That place where I play with the other kids in a little room while mom and dad go sit with all the grown-ups in the big room."

      August 19, 2010 at 11:34 am |
  20. Jake

    He's actually a kitten eating reptilian alien from Mars working on behalf of the Illuminati. His religious affiliation is neither here nor there.

    August 19, 2010 at 7:49 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.