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. Jsant

    Who cares what these idiots think. Too much Fox news is bad for your IQ. Why are we talking about this? What makes these people think that Obama is a muslin or that he wasn't born here. Lets focus on the economy. Why are we talking about some mosque in NYC? Lets end these two stupid wars bring these brave soldiers home and focus on our economy.

    August 19, 2010 at 8:16 am |
  2. H.camping

    .obama is one lunatic i hope will be impeached really soon. I can't trust this guy in our govt. or anywhere else of that matter.

    August 19, 2010 at 8:16 am |
  3. mAKOM

    Obama is a Muslim. But, Why is The Anti-Christ Obama Destroying America. If you truly want to know what is going on; Then you will have to accept these things as the TRUTH. Once you understand the following things; All things will be understood. So I tell you Obama is Satan on Earth, Lawless One, or what ever else you want to call this Demonic Figure. His words describe him, He is a False Hope, If you listen to him you will love him. He carries a Bow without an Arrow. He will conquer all through his speech, his false hoods will capture all who sit and listen to him.
    2 Thessalonians 2:11-12
    11And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

    August 19, 2010 at 8:15 am |
  4. Methusalem

    Frankly speaking, me, as a Christian, I am more fearful of those who come to me as a Christian than an atheist or a Muslim. A strategic trend we see lately is that many approach Christians in the name of Christ to deceive Christians. Look at this blog; some Muslims use Christian names for their jihadic agenda

    All Christians need to be careful of those who use the name of God. It is an obligation on the part of the Christians to test them to determine if they are from God or not. In Ephesians 5:6, Paul explains how some people are deceivers. There are those among us who are not saved but profess to be. They are the proverbial wolves in sheep’s clothing. They know they are not saved and are there to mislead Christians into following a path away from God.

    Christians have to understand that these people are among them. Paul phrases it in verse 6 as “men who deceive you with vain words.” What does this mean? To deceive is to mislead or cheat someone. A deceiver intentionally misleads people into believing something that is not true; in this case, they lead people away from the Will of God. They are liars. They are frauds.

    I am afraid, what President Obama's speeches about Islam last Friday and a year before in Cairo reflect exactly these lies and frauds.

    Matthew 7:16 “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?”

    August 19, 2010 at 8:15 am |
  5. jim

    one in five, huh?

    I guess that shows just how stupid 20% of americans are.

    August 19, 2010 at 8:14 am |
    • Johnny Five

      Or it shows how easily controlled the human mind is in 80% of the population.

      August 19, 2010 at 8:25 am |
  6. Tony in St. Louis

    America, ...the continued dumbing down of a Great nation! How come CNN never polls me? I wanna be polled. Ask me, ask me!!!

    August 19, 2010 at 8:13 am |
  7. Shawn

    Well..at the very least I think it proves 1 in 5 Americans is a blithering idiot.

    August 19, 2010 at 8:13 am |
  8. Nighthhaawk

    Will someone please educate this country! Either that or take your polls to a demographic with some common sense!

    August 19, 2010 at 8:11 am |
  9. nola

    what??? this is the stupidiest article ever!!! who cares?? and what exactly are you trying to stir up?? the muslim/xtian debate has to stop somewhere geeez!!! its all God, prophets, angels and co...argghhhh!!

    August 19, 2010 at 8:11 am |
  10. Pastor Evans

    Without a doubt he is what is most common amongst Politicians and really most people for that matter. The President is religious and not a true Disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ!!! You can't think the way he thinks and make the decisions the way he makes them and be true believer!!! This is the deception that most people, particularly here in America live in. He has a form of godliness but denies the truth and true power of the only true and living GOD, Jesus Christ!!! Believers pray for him because this is the commandment of the scriptures and he needs it!!!

    Pastor Evans

    August 19, 2010 at 8:10 am |
    • Gwen

      Pastor Evans...I am a christian...tell me one thing that president Obama has done to indicate he is not a christian....does not the bible teach that we are to LOVE EVERYBODY?..does not the bible teaches that we are suppose to help the poor, widows and less unfortunate of us?Is that not what he's been trying to do?Is he living an immoral life?...NO...president Obama is not perfect; but neither are you..the bible says "do not judge lest you be judged"...God is in control of all situations and he knows the ones who claims to be christians, yet harbor hate in their hearts for others..that is why we as christians are not effective with our evangelism in this country because we don't love and try to bring people together...we hate and cause division because we look down on other people who are not like us or think like us...You're suppose to be a pastor, did not Jesus eat with the tax collectors, publicans, sinners?..Suppose he told the woman at the well that he was not going to talk to her because she was a samarian and he was a jew....?Maybe while you are on your knees praying for Obama, you need to ask God to give you a heart of compassion to love everyone regardless of who they are...Maybe then God will hear your prayers...

      August 19, 2010 at 10:54 am |
  11. ralph5

    On the CBS morning news, inappropriate comments were made that the "president" (lower case intentional) is not a Muslin, but a Christian. If that isn't blantant bias reporting, I don't know what is. It is a poll of the PEOPLES' OPINION, not the press and they shouldn't try to influence the numbers. It screams of Gibbs putting pressure to again cover up "open mouth insert foot" by obozzo. How much longer is this sorry excuse for a leader going to get a pass from the press!!!

    August 19, 2010 at 8:09 am |
  12. LIB

    What a dumb article. Republicans have nothing constructive to do with their time

    August 19, 2010 at 8:09 am |
  13. ilfarmgirl

    people act like this is a news flash... He is Muslim. Always has been, He was when people voted for him.. Now you seem surprised. WOW.. This is how he got voted in... people didn't read what he was all about, they didn't listen. Now this is what we have. Gee Thanks.. we all have tp pay for the ignoance of others..

    August 19, 2010 at 8:07 am |
  14. Rodney J.

    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 8:07 am |
  15. Was Buf., Now Was.

    Two issues here: First off, my guess is the same people who don't think he's Christian were those upset with his choice of church and pastor during the campaign. Second, I'm actually pleased with how low the 1-in-5 figure is, because if you ask me, way more than 1 in 5 Americans is a total raving lunatic.

    August 19, 2010 at 8:07 am |
  16. Manny

    So one out of five Americans are blithering idiots, tell me something I don't know.

    August 19, 2010 at 8:06 am |
  17. h cabrera

    Cnn, how many times does a story like this come out???......Im sure there's a better story out there some where

    August 19, 2010 at 8:04 am |
  18. NoMosqueAtGrounZero

    I don't think he is Muslim...clearly after sitting through years of Reverend Wright's racist tyrades he is not muslim. But of course he gets a pass on that for reasons never explained by the liberal media....oh right he is not white, so he gets tha automatic 'race card' pass.

    August 19, 2010 at 8:04 am |
  19. JC

    He's neither. He's whatever serves him best at the time. The man is about as spiritual as a can of tuna.

    August 19, 2010 at 8:04 am |
  20. Mike

    The key word here is that they "believe" he is Muslim.
    Clear proof that beliefs are the seedbed of ignorance.

    August 19, 2010 at 8:02 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.