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. Chet Dettlinger

    What difference does it make whether the president is a member of one mythology or another? It only concerns me that in a time of real crisis he might really believe some of this mess and hesitate for one second waiting for an answer that will never come from a man-conjured god that has never existed. This whole glob of nothinng is simply another nuckle-dragging-lying-Neandrathal Republican attempt to "swift boat" another politician whose shoes not a one of them could fill. As a reason not to vote for someone it ranks up there with lapel pin flags, burning the American flag, abortion and same sex mariage. Long live the Martian born "Sun worshiper" Obama, and may he someday wipe the religeous cobwebs from his otherwise fantastic mind.

    August 21, 2010 at 11:01 am |
  2. kestnst

    It doesn't matter!!!!!! Who cares!!!!! This is a waste of time. Personally I don't feel a persons religion should be asked about. It in none of our business. In England the election season is four months and the press askes no questions of the candidates about their religion. Do you know why? THEY DON"T CARE AND IT IS OF NO CONCERN TO THEM!!!!!

    August 20, 2010 at 4:26 pm |
  3. Chuck

    I am learning every day that more and more christians are some of the most self serving, racist, and bigoted people I would ever want to meet. Yet they preach their christianity as if just stated they are christian makes it OK to be a hypocrit. This country has definitely overdosed on religion in the past 20 years. Now it is to the point that the country needs to rid itself of this annoying spectacle that has caused so much pain and misery for millions of Americans. Our forefathers did not create this country just for religious freedom, but also for freedom of religion. The religious right has consistently tried to impose the belief that this country was founded as a christian nation and that is just an outright lie. But again we have to consider the source.

    August 20, 2010 at 3:29 pm |
  4. ZK

    Just because he said okay to a Mosque; he is now being considered a Muslim. Regardless of his religion he is a good leader.

    August 20, 2010 at 2:15 pm |
  5. social scientist

    ok, cable news. can we stop reporting that 1 in 5 americans believe Obama is a Muslim? What is actually happening is that, apparently, 1 in 5 Americans CLAIM to believe he's a muslim on a poll. you don't know what they actually think, and i'd wager a good number of them are just trying to be oppositional because they dislike him/democrats/ethnic minorities. not that it should even matter... *cough* 1st amendment.
    accepting offers to help you interpret your polls.

    August 20, 2010 at 12:32 pm |
  6. Mrsb8

    I have to say that maybe "islamaphobia" is out there but because of their beliefs of women (not leaving home without a male member of family, wearing veils, not driving,-etc- in fact, women are prisoners of the islamic men) that yes, the tenets of islam actually read like a cult to some of us, especially women. And as for pres. obama, he changed his name (and has anyone found the court documents of his name change?)- that is a muslim thing, his name used to be Barry something in college. And he did not bother with the national day of prayer but hosts a ramadan dinner, How can anyone think he is NOT muslim? He has done everything he can to promote muslims but has downplayed christianity at EVERY step.

    August 20, 2010 at 10:54 am |
  7. Tinabina

    Why do people think that a president needs to display his religion? Religion has no place in politics; hence the separation of church and state. PS – It is also possible to be a good spiritual person without being overtly religious.

    August 20, 2010 at 10:47 am |


    1. NEWS





    August 20, 2010 at 10:39 am |
  9. just me

    We are at war with people who hate Americans. Muslim faith preaches hate toward The citizens of America. So Americans are pushing back that we do not want them here on our soil. Especially that they are so bold in putting up a Mosque on our sacred ground in New York. Americans are in the right

    August 20, 2010 at 10:36 am |
    • Matheus

      Nailed this article! Pretty much coerved everything about the media's manipulative tactics like shedding the spotlight and such a minuscule group of frauds.What's interesting enough is that this isn't even the first episode that South Park has shown Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It was when they first introduced the Super Best Friends or whatever it's called on the show, in 2001 actually. Were any threats or warnings given? No. Did any Muslims make a big fuss about the matter? No.It's stupid. You don't like what you see, ignore it. Not complicated at all. You can't control what other people do, only what you do. So be the bigger person and don't bring attention to it, because all that's going to do is attract people who want to offend you simply out of spite.Phew okay I'm done.

      July 29, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
  10. proudSMART American

    Americans, are getting more idiotic and retarded by the day. I am amazed this country is still standing.

    August 20, 2010 at 10:32 am |
  11. just me

    Obama's mother was an atheist . His father was a Muslim.

    August 20, 2010 at 10:31 am |
  12. Greg R

    First, the evidence that Obama is a Christian is overwhelming. Remember during the election when comments by his CHRISTIAN pastor were used against the Obama campaign?

    Second, and much more importantly, why should it matter what the president's religion is? Our country was clearly founded on the principal of religious tolerance. Thomas Jefferson himself questioned the divinity of Jesus Christ and hence one could rightly conclude that he was not a Christian.

    For those who point to terrorism in the name of Islam and certain intolerant passages in the Koran, please be aware that terrorism has also been conducted in the name of Christianity (Ku Klux Klan, Timothy McVeigh and others) and that the Bible also contains some objectionable passages (such as those that actually condone slavery). So calling someone a "Muslim" is no more of an insult than calling them a "Christian".

    August 20, 2010 at 10:29 am |
  13. just me

    The white house is giving false press to say he is a Christian. This is for people to believe in the next election . He is not a Christian. He is an atheist .

    August 20, 2010 at 10:29 am |
    • Greg R

      I wish that Obama were an atheist. Belief in magic is not a qualification to serve as president.

      August 20, 2010 at 10:35 am |
  14. Larry from Delaware

    FOX news, Conservative blogs and mouthpieces such as Beck & Limbaugh, are largely behind all the lies and half truths about our President and his administration. I understand that this type of controversy and opinion is how they make money and gain support, but these people are reporting lies and opinions with a hint of news, And that type of reporting is how people end up dead.
    When is this going to stop being accepted?

    August 20, 2010 at 10:29 am |
    • Kamil

      I could spend time here listing bc isuess and similarity with a June 15 1962 Hawaii bc, but I won't. Folks, we have little time left.We need to raise the buzz level to drown out Obama's current message. His new bc gives his father's name, so use that to push the dual-citizen at birth is not a natural born citizen.Aliens within the US, are under consular jurisdiction of their nation.British consulates are authorized in the US under a 1951/52 treaty.The requirement that for consular registration within one year of birth applied only if the father was a Citizen of the UK and Colonies (CUKC) by descent only and the child was also to become a CUKC by descent rather than birth in the UK or colonies. As Barack Obama Sr, was born in the colony of Kenya, he was a CUKC by birth rather than descent. Thus, Barack Obama II was capable of becoming a CUKC by descent without the need for consular registration.British Nationality Act, 1948, applied to Barack Obama. Part II Citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies. 5. Citizenship by descent. (1) Subject to the provisions of this section, a person born after the commencement of this Act shall be a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies by descent if his father is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies at the time of the birth: Provided that if the father of such a person is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies by descent only, that person shall not be a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies by virtue of this section unless—(a) that person is born or his father was born in a protectorate, protected state, mandated territory or trust territory or any place in a foreign country where by treaty, capitulation, grant, usage, sufferance, or other lawful means, His Majesty then has or had jurisdiction over British subjects; or When trying to articulate the qualifications for the Office of the US President, it is important to remember s/he is also the Commander in Chief of the military, the militias, and can declare martial law. It is therefore imperative to narrow the possible candidates who from birth on the soil and of the blood of two citizens, would derive loyalty to this soil and people. The natural born citizen, owes loyalty to no foreign nation or people, and is the only pool of candidates for the Office of the US President.A natural born U.S. citizen can choose dual citizenship at majority, but must relinquish foreign nationality before taking political office in the US, and anybody previously a dual-national is ineligible for the US Presidency and Commander of the military.A person born a dual-national is not eligible to ascend to the presidency. It has been said that citizenship carries with it all of the rights and prerogatives of citizenship obtained by birth in this country save that of eligibility to the Presidency.' Luria v. United States, 231 U.S. 9, 22 , 34 S.Ct. 10, 13. John Bingham in the Congressional Globe, House of Representatives, 39th Congress, 1st Session 1866, Who are natural born citizens? All persons born within the Republic, OF PARENTS OWING ALLEGIANCE TO NO OTHER SOVEREIGNTY, ARE NATURAL BORN CITIZENS.

      July 31, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  15. Mauricio

    Of course he is not a Christian. I haven't seen him glorify Christ in any way ever. But he goes to a church you may say? Does a bicycle become a car because you put it in the garage? Did president Obama become a Christian only for attending a Church? We, flowers of Jesus, called Christians, who have repented of our sinful life and are making the Bible, the ONLY inspired word of God our way of living, we exalt, lift up and glorify the risen Lord and God, Jesus Christ of Nazareth who is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. One true God. And there is no other name given to men under the sun in which we can be saved except Jesus. But president Obama declares with his action the opposite. By approving pro-gay laws, opening the door so wide to Islam in government, proposing to allow that in the most hurtful wound of America ever after Pearl Harbor, Muslims build a Mosque even though they inflicted the wound by attacking the World Trade Center in NYC with airliners which Muslims hijacked in the name of that religion, action that they planned in Mosques by the way by listening to radical Islamic clerics seems to be a not very Christian response to that Muslim attack. President Obama is honoring the terrorists that brought the towers down and making them a monument.. And in reality, a mosque is not the problem, let all humanity worship whatever they want to worship, God WILL judge at the end. The problem is the where, why in the Ground cero site. That would be a statement.. It is not a matter of Democrat and Republican, please wake of of your stupor (sleep). When Islam takes over a land it changes all the law for the Islamic sharia law in it's light form like Turkey or Morocco (which proclaim are secular countries but persecute and expel Christians) or strong, like Iran or others which apply it in the courts instead of International law. So, taking the above into consideration........NO, president Obama is not a Christian. Even the King of Belgium ABDICATED when they wanted him to sign a law in favor of abortion. I pray and hope for a real change when elections come and we can vote this Muslim president out of office forever. This is the blindest and saddest time in the history of our country. Repent USA don't forget the examples of history, if we indulge as a nation in pleasure, love of money and power, we will end up like all the powerful nations and empires that did the same. The Greek Empire: gone. The Roman Empire, gone. The Babilonic Empire, gone. The Medo-Persian Empire, gone. The Spanish, French, English empires, gone. Do we want to be a part of them or be the the agent of change for God's glory. We choose, so CHOOSE.

    August 20, 2010 at 10:24 am |
  16. Roy

    Let's see, his father was Muslum, He went to muslum schools, and he took his oath of office on a Koran instead of a Bible. That would make me think he is Muslum. But don't let these FACTS stand in the way of your opinion.

    August 20, 2010 at 10:16 am |
    • truth matterz

      too bad they aren't FACTS.... The whole world watched him take his oath of office on Ted Kennedys family bible. Where were you? Evidently in some right wing echo chamber where they fill your head with lies and then make fun of your stupidity behind your back.
      If you went to a interfaith school in indonesia from the time you were 5 until you were 9, and spent the rest of your life with your Christian mother and Christian grandparents, would you be Muslim?
      Are you Christian because you father was? So you have no belief system of your own? You are just following what you were told?

      August 24, 2010 at 10:21 pm |
  17. donteverbuynuthinfrommannamedtruth

    All religion is imagination at work, will humanity ever stop being so ignorant? Or rather will we always be so scared of the fact that there is no life after death, and that nothing we do matters, at least to any invisible floating men in the sky. CNN has this article because for all the attention they knew it would draw, just look at all the comments (mine included.) Stop wasting time America, Let's care about stuff that matters!

    August 20, 2010 at 9:58 am |
  18. Amy, FL

    Those poll numbers are not a surprise:
    You can expect a 29% of ignorant and racists in this country.

    August 20, 2010 at 9:56 am |
  19. Brad

    We were not founded as a Christian nation, we are not a Christian nation. Many of our founding fathers despised religion and were themselves atheist and deist.

    Look up Thomas Jefferson's opinion on Christianity and religion.

    Why is this such a big deal? If people are willing to not vote for someone because of their religion, someone who may have amazing ideas on how to serve the people... what hope is there for America?

    August 20, 2010 at 9:48 am |
  20. rtg

    Just goes to show that 1/5 of Americans are idiots. I think we should all have to take IQ tests before being allowed to vote.

    August 20, 2010 at 9:41 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54
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.