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. John

    Personally I hope Obama is an Atheist posing as a Christian, but that's just me.

    August 19, 2010 at 2:22 am |
    • Faisal

      Well I guess some people like liars. Or maybe it is just you.

      August 19, 2010 at 2:24 am |
    • John

      Well as an out of the closet Atheist would never get elected to public office, I'll take what I can get.

      August 19, 2010 at 2:32 am |
    • Sean


      August 19, 2010 at 9:01 am |
    • Patrick

      At least we would know he was intelligent. Really, how can you believe in the floating space Jew?

      August 19, 2010 at 12:28 pm |
  2. Katri

    I don't get this. Don't you have the freedom of religion in USA? Aren't all religions equally banned from public functions? You shouldn't even mention the president's religion whatever it might be. I find it very sad that you can't wish Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah but then make a terrible fuss about the president's personal beliefs.

    I think Mr Obama is being very wise in not giving any church around the White House a marketing tool of his memebership. You don't have to be a member to be a Christian.

    August 19, 2010 at 2:21 am |
    • Faisal

      yea I think it's so wise to believe in God in vain. Yep. brilliant

      August 19, 2010 at 2:30 am |
    • vickie-Texas

      Finally a believer; Thank you KATRI. How about we throw in some civil rights also. No employer has the right to ask an employees religion, sexual preference, marital or parental status to name a few....Pres Obama is pulling this country out of the ditch george Bush ran us in. How about giving him a lil time to do this-It didn't take 1 or 2 yrs for previous administration to put us in this mess;so we wont get out of it in 1-2 years. Haters and Racist Americans, stop already-God is watching all of us.

      August 20, 2010 at 6:49 am |
  3. Tom R

    I would say that most likely Obama is Agnostic meaning he doesnt believe in organized religion. He is certainly NOT Muslim.

    August 19, 2010 at 2:19 am |
    • Margie

      I don't believe he is Muslim either, but if he is, so what? He is entitled to be any religion he wants to be. For all of you posters who think all Muslims are terrorists, your ignorance is showing. You are the same people who think all Hispanics have switchblades, all Blacks are thugs and rapists, etc. You are just ignorant and need to make your comments in the voting booth. If you don't like him, don't vote for him.

      August 19, 2010 at 9:14 am |
  4. kazz

    a) who cares

    b) he's a christian

    c) who cares

    August 19, 2010 at 2:18 am |
    • Faisal

      only the careless people don't care. So get out of here, we don't need your wasted comment space. Thank you

      August 19, 2010 at 2:19 am |
  5. Chris

    He is definitely a muslim.. It does matter because he lied about it, like he is lied about so many other things. This black muslim has no business in the white house.

    August 19, 2010 at 2:16 am |
    • Faisal

      well as the Lord Jesus Christ forewarned us, "the devil is a liar and a thief", so this should come as no surprise, should it?

      August 19, 2010 at 2:19 am |
    • Tom R

      And bush was sooooo honest. HaHa ignorant fools make me laugh.

      August 19, 2010 at 2:21 am |
    • Faisal

      hey, who says I liked bush? in fact i was a student in art with his two daughters and got put in time out for saying something about his dad, and to this day i still could not figure out what it was. I believe all I said was "oh, my daddy doesn't like him.." and they put me in the damn corner.

      August 19, 2010 at 2:28 am |
    • Margie

      And you have no business speaking without putting your brain in gear. If he is a Muslim (which he isn't), so what? Does freedom of religion not apply to him?

      August 19, 2010 at 9:40 am |
    • Frogist

      Whoa... "This black muslim has no business in the white house." I think your racism is showing.

      August 19, 2010 at 9:43 am |
    • nick


      August 19, 2010 at 11:28 am |
    • One Whose Name Means Beloved of God

      Hmmm "this black muslim"

      So would you be OK with any other black muslim? Or would a white muslim be more to your taste? (they do exist you know)

      August 19, 2010 at 6:19 pm |
  6. isit1984yet


    George Bush is not a Christian. No good Christian would order the needless slaughter of a million people in a failed attempt to steal their oil.
    Not to address Bush's motives for Iraq, I agree Bush was not a good Christian. (I believe Bush POSSIBLE went after Saddam because 1. he tried to kill his father, and 2. he put a price on the Bush family. A former speech writer of Bush's said this in a magazine interview (Time?). This is, of course, if that guy was telling the truth.

    August 19, 2010 at 2:15 am |
  7. rwla

    The Parable about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector -
    Jesus also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves, thinking they were righteous, but who looked down on everyone else: “Two men went up to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed, ‘O God, I thank you that I'm not like other people—thieves, dishonest people, adulterers, or even this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I give a tenth of my entire income.’

    “But the tax collector stood at a distance and would not even look up to heaven. Instead, he continued to beat his chest and said, ‘O God, be merciful to me, the sinner that I am!’[e] I tell you, this man, rather than the other one, went down to his home justified, because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the person who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18: 9-14)

    August 19, 2010 at 2:15 am |
    • geeg88

      Jesus also said that one would be able to tell if someone was a true follower of His, by examining their fruits. Obama lied about being a Christian. Lying is a "bad fruit", not good. So, it's not improper to expose Obama's lies, and then to use discernment as to what that says about him. What it says about him is not good.

      August 19, 2010 at 2:21 am |
    • Kalish

      "geeg" must be the sound you make through your nose when you're not breathing through your mouth.

      August 19, 2010 at 2:45 am |
  8. Faisal

    "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.

    LET THE FUN BEGIN... Look, an active Christian believes that Jesus Christ is going to rule all souls in the coming of His Heavenly Kingdom. Jesus Christ Himself will BE KING.. *THAT* and NO LESS than *THAT* IS CONSIDERED CHRISTIAN

    Thank you. BYE

    August 19, 2010 at 2:12 am |
  9. rwla

    “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21)

    August 19, 2010 at 2:10 am |
    • Bobolink

      which God?

      August 19, 2010 at 10:22 am |
    • Chris R

      Ummm.. The jewish god, the christian god, and the muslim god are all the same God. I know that's shocking to hear but it's true. The only major theological difference between all them center around the nature of Jesus. However, they are all Abrahamic religions.

      August 19, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
  10. makak

    Whoever still thinks he's muslim or not born in the US is just plain stupid! It's really sad and pathetic how dumb/ignorant this country is. No wonder all the jobs are going abroad – Americans are too dumb to do them!

    August 19, 2010 at 2:09 am |
    • Cristina

      Used to get stuff like this through the old fiheaonsd mail service years ago a little less graphic I suppose. Still I did survive and I'm managing quite well with only 8 toes and a huge wart growing out of my coccyx

      July 29, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  11. Faisal

    New International Version (©1984)
    All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
    New Living Translation (©2007)
    And everyone will hate you because you are my followers. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

    English Standard Version (©2001)
    And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

    New American Standard Bible (©1995)
    "You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.

    International Standard Version (©2008)
    You will be hated continuously by everyone because of my name. But the person who endures to the end will be saved."

    GOD'S WORD® Translation (©1995)
    Everyone will hate you because you are committed to me. But the person who endures to the end will be saved.

    King James Bible
    And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

    American King James Version
    And you shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.

    American Standard Version
    And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.

    Bible in Basic English
    And you will be hated by all men, because of my name; but he who goes through to the end will have salvation.

    Douay-Rheims Bible
    And you shall be hated by all men for my name's sake. But he that shall endure unto the end, he shall be saved.

    Darby Bible Translation
    And ye will be hated of all on account of my name; but he that has endured to the end, he shall be saved.

    English Revised Version
    And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.

    Webster's Bible Translation
    And ye will be hated by all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.

    Weymouth New Testament
    You will be objects of universal hatred because you are called by my name, but those who stand firm to the End will be saved.

    World English Bible
    You will be hated by all men for my name's sake, but he who endures to the end, the same will be saved.

    Young's Literal Translation
    and ye shall be hated by all because of my name, but he who hath endured to the end - he shall be saved.

    August 19, 2010 at 2:08 am |
    • Michael, Chapel Hill

      Hi Faisal, how is Obama fitting in this.

      August 19, 2010 at 8:51 am |
    • One Whose Name Means Beloved of God

      Oooo... good example of how translations are actually different.

      (I did wonder what version of the Bible the guy was tweeting...)

      August 19, 2010 at 6:16 pm |
  12. Jorge

    I am, and always, have been convinced that Mr.Obama is a Muslim. My problem with him, is I question whether or not he is a TRUE Patriot! He seems to always avoid placing his hand over his heart during the playing of the AMERICAN National Anthem, a symbolic gesture. but he clasps his hands over his genitals. That speaks volumes! I think he is doing his best to lay the groundwork for the socialization, and ultimately, the ISLAMIZATION of this great nation!

    August 19, 2010 at 2:08 am |
    • wat

      LOL @ Jorge



      August 19, 2010 at 2:41 am |
    • One Whose Name Means Beloved of God

      Maybe like most men he just wants to have the important stuff protected. }:>

      August 19, 2010 at 6:14 pm |
    • Can People Really be this Stupid?

      Just when you think that the wingnuts have reached the outer limits of lunacy, someone comes along and surprises you.
      Jorge, you need to seek professional help.

      August 19, 2010 at 7:01 pm |
  13. isit1984yet

    Obama is a Muslim. I know ex-Muslims who state there is no doubt Obama is a Muslim. Why would they lie? They don't know each other either. No Christian would treat the faith and the written word as he does. No Christian would sit through the services he did. I've left church's for far less reason than what Obamas pastor was preaching.

    August 19, 2010 at 2:08 am |
    • The Real Faisal

      I don't think you know any "ex-Muslims", and if you did they sure as hell don't prove to be a good barometer in judging whether anyone is a Muslim – a Muslim isn't one by just saying/not saying they are they have to practice it and there isn't any signs of that from the President.

      August 19, 2010 at 5:25 am |
    • doamna

      Check your grammar. Churches should be plural not possessive. Also, you're insane.

      August 19, 2010 at 10:17 am |
  14. geeg88

    Obama says he's Christian, but he's not a Christian. No one who went to Wright's church for 20 years could be a Christian. That makes him a liar. Obama's dishonest nature is a major character flaw. His lie about what he believes is just one example of his dishonest nature. His nature is dark.

    August 19, 2010 at 2:07 am |
  15. raiden

    i think he's black....

    August 19, 2010 at 2:05 am |
    • wat

      He's black? ZOMG! How did this happen?

      August 19, 2010 at 2:37 am |
    • (B)iraq Hussein Osama

      his mother looks white to me. i swear she does too.

      August 19, 2010 at 5:49 am |
  16. Merrium Webster

    Dear Athiest:
    Maybe you saw my book on a shelf in school. Look up the word "socialist". A socialist would never bail out a bank or corporation. A true socialist would nationalize them.

    August 19, 2010 at 2:05 am |
  17. thunder1road

    George Bush is not a Christian. No good Christian would order the needless slaughter of a million people in a failed attempt to steal their oil.

    August 19, 2010 at 2:03 am |
  18. miked d

    These are the same people who cant find north america on the world globe.

    August 19, 2010 at 2:02 am |
  19. Peter

    Why is it anybody's damned business what religion Barack Obama practices anyway? We do not live in the Christian States of America–not yet anyway–and God help us when we do.

    August 19, 2010 at 2:02 am |
  20. Greta

    Americans are incredibly ignorant. We don't deserve to vote! I think Obama is doing better than any other person could do right now and I am very very angry at the Republicans who put theiir own political interests before the welfar of the country. I also believe in karma, so we'll see where their insane arrogance takes them. Just hope they don't take us all down with them.

    August 19, 2010 at 1:59 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.