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. JK Smalley

    I don't get why any of this matter... Muslim, Budhist, Jewish, Catholic... All that matters is how he runs the country. Does he bring ANY religion into it? Because if he does THAT would be wrong... Separation of Church and State, you know!

    August 20, 2010 at 9:16 am |
  2. MATT

    The majority of this country is smart enough to realize that religion is a farce. The problem is, the majority of the majority are too afraid or ambivolent to admit it. Religion is the ultimate sham.

    August 20, 2010 at 9:09 am |
  3. Subhash

    You hypocrites US americans! Americans subtly do religion based discrimination! I will laugh when next time US release report on religious freedom in various countries. You dont have moral authority to do so!!!

    Muslims are open/vocal/moron extremist! but you all are subtle. In my country India, we fight over religion & admit that it is big problem but it does not prevent from Sikh becoming Prime minster or Muslim becoming president.

    Way to go USA!

    August 20, 2010 at 9:06 am |
    • LizinStLouis

      You are absolutely right!!! Media is the worst culprit and it continues to propagate this notion that he is Muslim (CNN included). There is not problem at all even if he was but this is America, a country full of hyprocrites. Here, it is only a Christian who can become president..I understand some Americans were saying they cannot vote for Mitt Romney (not that I like him) because he is a Mormon. The annonying part is that America wants to impose itself on other countries while drinking wine but preaching water. What a shame!

      August 21, 2010 at 10:32 am |
  4. HR

    If not a Muslim – why did he "dis" Nat'l day of prayer, why has he not joined a church since
    Rev. "god damn America", why does he always praise Muslims, why back the new mosque in NY, why does he kiss Muslim butt all over the world – he is a muslim tried and true and bent on the destruction of America.

    August 20, 2010 at 9:03 am |
  5. Flamilocks

    I fail to see how his religion even matters. Even more so, I find it very disturbing that people are so ignorant as to make assumptions about an individual after the information in question has already been discussed and laid to rest. What is it that makes people say one thing one month, certain that they are correct, only to change their statement later? If the man says he's Christian, chances are, he is. But even further than that, his religion shouldn't even be important. Despite what people like to think, we are not a theocracy and religion is meant to kept separate from politics (though of course this rarely happens).

    Honestly, I couldn't care less about his religion. He could be a Pastafarian for all I care. But ignorance is something that reflects badly on those of us who take the time to be informed and aware of our political leaders.

    August 20, 2010 at 8:45 am |
  6. mAKOM

    It is TRUE. Obama is a Muslim. His actions confirm this. When he claimed he was a Christian during the election and tapes were later made public that showed Obama speaking to a Muslim group and stating' that he was raised a Muslim; was educated as a Muslim; and that he is still a Muslim– people said it didn't matter.
When people found out that Barrack Hussein Obama was enrolled as a Muslim child in school and his father and stepfather were both Muslims, people said it didn't matter.
When he wrote in another book he authored "I will stand with them (Muslims) should the political winds shift in an ugly direction," people said it didn't matter.

    August 20, 2010 at 8:41 am |
  7. Shawn

    IN HIS OWN WORRDS, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XE9mZCRX2mg&feature=related

    August 20, 2010 at 8:38 am |
    • Zoq

      I want for mr, prisendent obama talpeose help me for my schooling inmonrovia, liberia. beause i has noone to help me for my school fee.I am a high school graduate, 20 yearof age.I live on Ashmun street, monrovia, liberia,oppoiste the ministry of justice.E-mail adderss;name of church.saving grace temple.center monrovia, liberia.

      July 29, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  8. vegas01

    Actions speak louder than words, and his actions do not support christian values being held. He does seem to befriend muslims more readily and speaks of them more often than any other religion. When speaking of christians, we are more apt to hear him use phrases, like 'bible thumpers' or 'clinging to their bibles,' in a negative manner. I cannot recall a positive remark he has made about religion except his defense of muslims.
    What religious belief he may ascribe to is something we may never know, but one thing is obvious, he rates himself and his opinion at least as high as anything of God and maybe higher.

    August 20, 2010 at 8:37 am |
  9. nonesuch

    One in 5 people polled is a complete moron, mentally ill, or ignorant.

    That shouldn't come as any shock to anyone who reads the comments on CNN.

    August 20, 2010 at 8:31 am |
  10. onuricle

    He hasn't been to church since the election and has had a dozen meetings with the muslim groups in the last two months; far more than with citizens effected by illegal aliens, citizens effected by the oil spill, citizens without jobs etc. He's a muslim.

    August 20, 2010 at 8:13 am |
  11. Dwight

    Just like the middle east the USA is full of christian diehards who really think that the world is coming to an end. the us has been taken over by radical evangelical christians... this is all about some mythical great war between two imaginary gods.. the media makes big profits off this BS so they push it of course.

    August 20, 2010 at 7:39 am |
  12. ChubJack

    "Almost one in five say that Obama is a muslim" What a misleading article. On the CNN home page you say that more say Obama is a muslim. What are the actual numbers? Because less than one in fiveis somewhere around 17 to 19 percent. So we have 80 to 83 percent who do not think he is muslim. The funny part is that you say only a third says the president is a Christian. So, there are many who do not know what to think. The even more amazing and funny part of this subject is that did we not go through this big ole Rev. Jeremiah Wright story during the presidential elections. Did we not discover during the Rev. Wright fiascal that President Obama had been a member of that Christian/Baptist church for somewhere around twenty years and that Rev. Wright had been the pastor for nearly 35 years. So both the president and Rev. Wright are undercover muslims. LOL People are going to believe what they want to believe regardless of the facts because that way they can have something to complain about. To many complainers and not enough doers.

    August 20, 2010 at 7:34 am |
  13. LGH

    And I am sure the poll was 1000 people out of 300 million. These people need to get a life.

    August 20, 2010 at 7:13 am |
  14. yasir-mohammed

    my assumption was that it HAPPENS ONLY IN INDIA any ways now its confirmed that world is 2 small.

    August 20, 2010 at 6:59 am |
  15. Bill

    If you were to ask most Americans what a Muslim believes in or what the basic beliefs are of Muslims they would have no idea.
    If the president were a Muslim, which he is not, what difference would that make? Are we to only have presidents who are Christians?

    August 20, 2010 at 6:48 am |
  16. dennis pence

    He deifinitely is not a Christian "You will know them by their fruits". He may not be a professed Muslim, but he certainly indicates that he is a Muslim sympathiser. Just as Nazi sympathisers were guilty in WWII, he is as guilty as sin.

    August 20, 2010 at 6:38 am |
  17. Sam Rupani

    Good Morning.

    Jesus says Obama is muslim from birth.

    He is from Kenya.

    He was born there. He will never improve unless people make him improve.

    Alll this is from Lord Jesus who is here from sume... I am only server.

    August 20, 2010 at 6:28 am |
  18. JC

    History will be much kinder to George and Laura tahn Barry and Moochelle

    August 20, 2010 at 6:10 am |
  19. Mohammad Arshad

    It doesn't matter what religion he believes. Most important thing is whether he is a good human being or not. If he is a good human being then he will stop events like burning Quran on 11 sept. If he cannot control on this activity then i don't care what he is. I will say.. he doesn't have any religion nor a good person.

    August 20, 2010 at 5:19 am |
  20. inag[UGUR]ation Tanriover

    Obama is the endtimes president of the USA(Harlot of Babylon), he has been elected president to the largest Christian country on the planet. He will say whatever it takes to get into office. I cant blame him because there are others in power who are pulling his strings(Council of 13 is one) When this nation falls horribly and 5 seconds before i die i will atleast know that i will not blame him.

    August 20, 2010 at 4:52 am |
    • Epidi

      Geez – and I thought it was the Bush & his beast Cheny who pulled the puppet strings that was the evil incarnate to wreak destruction upon the earth in the name of the almighty god called $$$$$. Thanks for the enlightenment – NOT!

      August 23, 2010 at 4:24 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.