November 17th, 2010
07:20 PM ET

Most Americans say Obama's religious beliefs different than their own

A majority of Americans say that President Barack Obama's religious beliefs are either somewhat different or very different than their own, a poll on religion and the recent elections found.

The poll report, by the Public Religion Research Institute, identified Obama's religion "dilemma," as the institute called it, as one of three significant emerging religious issues to watch toward the 2012 election cycle.

Sixteen percent of respondents said that Obama's views were somewhat different from their own, and 35 percent said his beliefs were very different. Only 40 percent believe that Obama has similar religious beliefs to their own. the poll found.

The report found a strong relationship between how Americans perceive Obama's faith and their views toward him. Of those who said that Obama had similar religious views, 94 percent support the president. At the other end, nearly 80 percent of those who say they have diferent beliefs than Obama have an unfavorable view of him.

The Public Religion Research Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that focuses on research and education on religion, values and public life. The survey was based on 1,494 interviews done in early November.

Another trend identified by the survey was that overall, Americans are almost evenly split on whether the values of Islam are compatible with American values. A majority of Republicans and Tea Party supporters said that Islam is at odds with American values. A majority of Democrats and Independents disagreed.

A third major emerging issue was that a majority of Americans believe God has granted America a special role in human history. Again, members of the Tea Party and Republicans were most likely to hold this belief, with 76 percent and 75 percent of respondents agreeing, respectively. In comparison, only 54 percent of independents and 49 percent of Democrats felt the same way, the poll found.

In all, the survey found no major religious realignments in the 2010 midterm elections.

"Republican candidates held a significant advantage among white Christian voters, while Democratic candidates held a significant advantage among minority Christian voters and religiously unaffiliated voters," the report said.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Barack Obama • Politics • Polls

soundoff (78 Responses)
  1. Iqbal khan

    All those who get their news on all the famous channels please check the NEWS on....

    November 18, 2010 at 4:07 pm |
  2. Muneef


    November 18, 2010 at 2:14 pm |
  3. Muneef


    November 18, 2010 at 2:04 pm |
    • Muneef


      November 18, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
  4. Muneef

    Hope you do not mean that they do not believe his words taking him for a ....? It is too bad not to believe the person you have chosen to elect as a guide out of the messes already there ???

    November 18, 2010 at 1:19 pm |
  5. Steve from Wisconsin

    Why are so many people irritated with articles like this? They ask people a simple question, looking for their honest opinion, then they publish the results. That's all there is to it. It's not about Obama's skin color, etc. Just let it go!

    November 18, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
    • .

      i think they're irritated with the fact that obama has claimed to be Christian over and over again and people seem to ignore him for reasons the irritated feel are prejudicial. their honest opinion is based on ignorance- and i mean actual IGNORE-ance of his own words

      November 18, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
  6. Doc Vestibule

    Oy NL!
    You and I seem to be reading from the same page today. 🙂

    November 18, 2010 at 12:09 pm |
  7. shirley mitchem

    Pres. Obama is a CHRISTIAN....I am white and a CHIRISTIAN lutheran
    1 I don't let the republican propaganda mislead me.
    2 I don't believe in the Evengalical religious Tea Party.
    3 I don't believe in the garbage that comes from Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin
    4 I don't listen to Racist Fox News. owned by Rupert Murdoc a racist and the contracted paid likes of
    Glen Beck, Sarah Palin, Lou Dobbs, Bill O'Reilly, Andrew Breibart, Juan Williams.
    5 Newt Gingrich Michelle Malkin..........They all have a racist side that is not good for any part of America

    November 18, 2010 at 9:28 am |
    • CW

      @ Shirley,

      Okay lets play....some of the things Obama has said that he is for:

      1) Pro Ab-ortion
      2) Pro G-a-y rights
      3) this socialist healthcare reform

      Those are just some of the things....now To be a so called christian you can pick some of the things you like you to live by. You have to stand for all the things in THE BIBLE. So that is why I'm not doubting him being a christian....but most democrats don't adhere to THE BIBLE as much as republicans do.

      November 18, 2010 at 11:50 am |
    • NL

      Not that I agree with your assessment of Obama's health reform, but what, exactly, is so anti-bible or Christian about socialist healthcare reform? Did Jesus charge for healings?

      November 18, 2010 at 11:57 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Obama is not "pro-ab-ortion". That term implies that he wants women to get abo-rtions. If I concede a parents right to chose to circu-mcise their child, am I "pro-gen-ital-mutilation"?
      I won't get into the debate regarding granting basic human rights to ga-y people with you, since we've all ready established that you and I will get nowhere on that topic...
      As for socialist health care reform – I am curious to know what about it is so threatening to you.
      I, for one, am extremely grateful for the universal health care I enjoy in my home country.

      November 18, 2010 at 12:07 pm |
  8. Doc Vestibule

    In America, politicians MUST claim to be Christian but really, does anyone believe it? Dubya was re-born around about the time he decided to go into the public limelight, once he finished with the blow and booze.
    The population are confused about Obama's faith because he has been exposed to other cultures and educated in another faith. Some seem to think this means that he therefore adheres to the tenets of whatever religion to which he has been exposed.
    He's tried to keep the veneer of Christianity about him, doing the obligatory presidential photo-op with Billy Graham (though he is the first to go to Graham's house instead of inviting him to the White House). But alas, with an obviously non anglo name, he has a much harder time convincing the red states that he's a Jesus lovin', God fearin kinda guy.

    It is unfortunate that the puritan ethic has such a keen edge, whether conscious or subconscious, in the U.S and prevents the people from voting based on criteria far more relevant than religion.

    Your money has masonic symbols and references to God – mine has poems about hockey; yet you're the ones who have secularism declared as a mandate for government!

    November 18, 2010 at 9:09 am |
    • NL

      Canadian, eh?
      Well, your anthem asks God to 'keep our land', whereas we need to dig through the long version (that nobody ever does) to find reference to God.

      November 18, 2010 at 9:23 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Touche, NL.
      God is in my anthem.

      November 18, 2010 at 9:40 am |
    • NL

      I watch hockey games so I know the tune. I can even tell when some American singer screws up the words when we're hosting one of your teams. My apologies for our ignorance.

      Hmm... I wonder if Palin, should she ever get elected to the oval office, might not want to add a little hockey to our money? Or maybe a momma Grizzly bear, or a moose. Give her a term in office and our money might look more Canadian than yours, and probably end up being worth a whole lot less.

      November 18, 2010 at 9:53 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Maybe a rifle and an oil rig on the dime?

      November 18, 2010 at 10:08 am |
    • Muneef

      @Doc Vestibule.
      You got it absolutely right "A Rifle and An Oil Rig".. OMG this looks as an anthem or a poem it self...hahaha. Sorry guys just got excited a bit.

      November 18, 2010 at 10:29 am |
    • NL

      Too bad you guys already call your dollar coin a Loonie, because it would make the perfect nickname for a Palin dime. 😉

      November 18, 2010 at 10:34 am |
    • Frogist

      @NL: I think she will probably just go for the corporate sponsorship... the Walmart penny, the Exxon fifty, the Smith and Wesson hundred...

      November 18, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
    • NL

      And for the $1000 bill, Viagra.

      It would make for an interesting way of thinking about your retirement nest egg, and you could brag about how much 'drug money' you have squirrelled away.

      November 18, 2010 at 11:40 pm |
  9. CW

    All I can say is it matters to me.....whether Obama is a christian or not.

    V0te in favor of THE BIBLE rather than put your trust in what a man thinks always.

    Remember people who don't like THE BIBLE or try to discredit it.....our country was founded by Christian's.

    November 18, 2010 at 8:59 am |
    • Luke

      You have absolutely no sense of history, do you?

      November 18, 2010 at 9:00 am |
    • NL

      Ah, bible thumpers, the Pharisees of our day.

      November 18, 2010 at 9:08 am |
    • adams

      to say that this country was founded by Christians is obviously inviting argument. start listing specific founders so the debate can be targeted.

      November 18, 2010 at 9:24 pm |
  10. Luke

    From my experience, nearly ever person I meet has a different religious view. I am having a very hard time understanding why Mr. Obama should be any exception to that rule.

    November 18, 2010 at 8:10 am |
    • Muneef

      Really do not know why but maybe because he is:
      -Different Color?
      -Half Caste?
      -Exposed to other cultures?
      -Arms too open towards peace and change?
      -Thinks and decides for him self and resists and rejects becoming any ones or groups puppet?

      November 18, 2010 at 10:42 am |
    • Muneef

      If they are so keen on a Christian Religious President for the White House then maybe should vote and elect a Christian Clergyman or Clergywoman and those might prove to be more God Fearing with their politics and more powerful than most to make a change either for the Good or Worse..?

      November 18, 2010 at 10:51 am |
    • NL

      We've already elected a Sunday school teacher in Carter and he would argue (correctly) that the very people who make up the Tea Party today were the type of folks who supported him most in the '70s. It all boils down to being a Democrat. It doesn't matter who that party fields as a candidate, the Republican party will find some angle to discredit their integrity.

      November 18, 2010 at 11:54 am |
    • adams

      NL, any politician will attempt to discredit their oppontents integrity, democrats do it too, just sayin

      November 18, 2010 at 11:56 am |
    • NL

      There's a difference between running a candidate's own words saying that she dabbled in witchcraft and swiftboating someone, wouldn't you agree?

      November 18, 2010 at 3:27 pm |
    • adams

      of course i agree NL, but im saying that democrats do that to republicans too- surely you agree...?

      November 18, 2010 at 9:22 pm |
    • NL

      Politics is dirty business, but politicians tend to only go as far as their base wants them to go and, from my perspective, the Republican base is willing to get dirtier than the Democrat base, and the Tea Party base is willing to get even dirtier still.

      November 18, 2010 at 11:30 pm |
  11. doctore0

    One day humanity will grow up and throw out religion... Hopefully it will be sOOn

    November 18, 2010 at 7:57 am |
    • GrammarNazi

      Consider this: Religion is more like an organism. It evolves, and multiplies, and continues evolving. From Egyptian polytheism to today's ubiquitous monotheism, religion essentially evolved from explaining the unknown (today we call that science) to values of right and wrong that determine the fate of our "immortal souls", which includes reincarnation.

      Perhaps it will become extinct soon. It is possible that could be the great event heralded by the Mayans and numerous other civilization. Remember, most "prophecies" can be interpreted purely as 2012 being a great change, not armageddon. While I share your hope that an elusive creature as mysterious as it is hypocritical as religion is, will someday find its way to the back burner, I'm not holding my breath.

      November 19, 2010 at 3:47 pm |
  12. jaylenjose

    If you want to participate in such Polls and also win cash and other price you can join http://ow.ly/3aVJW

    November 18, 2010 at 1:20 am |
  13. Sum Dude

    I like how this article has been up for over four hours without appearing in the list of "recent posts". Is everyone busy with Wednesday Bible Study at CNN or something? Is the article still considered to be "in the hopper" and not fully posted or something? Hmm? 😛

    November 17, 2010 at 11:51 pm |
  14. Reality

    BO and his re-election committee count votes. They know they won in 2008 with the support of the Immoral Majority and they are not about to pander to the conservative Christians with the exception of the crumbs they throw with the faith-based initiatives.

    And who is the Immoral Majority?? The fastest growing USA voting bloc: The 70+ million "Roe vs. Wade mothers and fathers" of aborted womb-babies" whose ranks grow by two million per year

    2008 – Presidential popular vote: 69,456,897 for BO vs. 59,934,814 for JM.

    November 17, 2010 at 11:46 pm |
  15. Gary

    No two people have the same religion. Religion is a combination of our own perceptions,innate mental capabilities. No two Christians,jews,muslims, or even agnostics have the same beliefs. Religion is a mixture of history,culture and family upbringing. No one has experienced the exact same. Even siblings were born with their own traits.

    November 17, 2010 at 10:30 pm |
    • Muneef


      Sa-lute you for this correct comment which is so right it is enviro-nments and experi-ences that make the th-oughts and paths for each of us,that gives it it's individ-uality..! So im-agine an individ-ual who had experi-enced the bas-ics of the West added to it the S-pice of the East. After all if it wasn't to the S-pice of the East yours would have not been able to preserve the foods and sail the Hori-zons nor would have enjoyed the s-picy delici-ous meals...?  

      November 18, 2010 at 6:54 am |
    • Muneef

      After all most of the knowledge came to West from East through the S-pice and S-ilk road? Even for that "0" which has allowed us to write here as well came from the East ? So no matter how "0" you think of BO he will sooner or latter prove to all how important he would become for Humanity's sake and Cul-tural int-egra-tion...They say he is diff-erent? Well I say being a left handed is diff-erent than most having to use the other part of the human br-ains and seeing things in diff-erent pro-spect-ive for which the US might have never had before..!?

      November 18, 2010 at 10:11 am |
  16. Mark from Middle River

    David – Here is a question. Over the last week we have heard G.W. Bush talk about how out of everything it was kanye west saying he hates blacks was something that hurt him th most. Now GW had more minorities in his cabient than Clinton and Obama but that negative perception stuck with him.

    Do you think Obama feels similar when folks say he is a Muslim?

    November 17, 2010 at 9:51 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Mark from Middle River

      The Katrina disaster was made worse by the Federal Government's mismanagement and delayed response. Many felt that if the stranded, starving people had been white folk, government service would have been better.

      Do you remember the famous George W. quote: "Brownie you're doing a hell of a job!"? Brownie wasn't.

      George W. was the man in charge. People perceived him as not caring, enough. Perception is the reality.

      I think Obama has received less respect than any president in my lifetime. He and his family have been subjected to pictures likening them to African natives, and monkeys. I think that is beyond disgusting. Obama is more articulate and thinks faster, than 99% of the people in this country.

      During the health care debate black members of Congress were called names and spit on. SPIT ON!

      We have in Congress, a man who would like to reconsider Civil Rights. What is this country thinking?

      I think the Muslim charge hurts Obama, because it hurts him politically.

      I think what hurts him more, is that some white redneck, with one tooth in his pudding head feels superior to him because he is black.

      Not that Obama would want to, but I'd much sooner have a beer with him than G. W. – Any day.

      Sorry for the rant. – Cheers!

      November 18, 2010 at 8:29 am |
    • Frogist

      Of all the things in his time as leader of the country, (9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq "Mission Accomplished", how many people were and are being killed in two wars he started, a financial pitfall, Katrina etc etc) Dubya chose Kanye West talking smack. Really? That's the low point of his presidency? The man was a joke, and still is.
      Quite frankly I'd like to see Mr Obama's people speak to folks calling him a muslim and acknowledging that it's a veiled insult (no pun intended). I think he's too dignified to take on that debate. And I think even though he knows there's more important things to focus on, he underestimates how lowbrow this country really is. I agree with David, I've never seen a president endure so many personal insults and vicious attacks. But if Mr Obama was asked the thing he most regretted or felt pain for, I would hope his answer would be that he had to watch this country go through an economic crisis the like of which we haven't seen in almost a century. Not some uninformed hick under the repub media machine calling him a muslim.

      November 18, 2010 at 9:27 am |
    • NL

      Perhaps Obama's greatest regret will be that his being president was such a distraction to Republicans that they became fixated upon ruining his term, and preventing his getting reelected instead of actually participating in government.

      Whatever happened to patriotic Republicans like John Wayne who said "I didn't vote for him but he's my president, and I hope he does a good job." when Kennedy was elected?

      November 18, 2010 at 10:24 am |
    • Muneef

      Maybe his mistake that he did not insist up on the investigation of recent wars as should have done when the were weak and exposed but now they have felt safe a gathered their troops against him and his party...but this issue seemed to have been bargained with the seat issue that said was sold to him and resold to some one else when he moved up? Otherwise shouldn't have believed them that the recent wars are forbidden issues to investigate for NS while it was not but an issue related to Oil's and War's Lords seizing the opportunities to gain wealth and power for them selves and their packs..?

      November 18, 2010 at 11:10 am |
    • Muneef

      As it seems maybe people prefer to have a President that let them live in fears and drag them from war to another and squeezing them further and further from their National Wealth?
      As it seems that people do not fancy Presidents seeking to save their wealths and drag them from peace to another? As such they only call them weak and unpatriotic..!

      November 18, 2010 at 11:21 am |
    • Muneef

      Obama can not be considered Muslim if he had not gone for Hajj Pilgrim to Mecca since he is capable of affording it...therefore it is not fair to accuse the man for what he is not?
      Unless by this allegations they are trying to push him further in to killing and destroying Muslim countries for the sake of proving to them that he is not a Muslim..? So as it seems they will only be more pleased of him if he has showed more stiffness and cruelty towards Muslims? But still they will never be satisfied what ever he does to prove to them the opposite.
      Al-Baqara Sura 02:120
      In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
      And the Jews will not be pleased with thee, nor will the Christians, till thou follow their creed. Say: Lo! the guidance of Allah (Himself) is Guidance. And if thou shouldst follow their desires after the knowledge which hath come unto thee, then wouldst thou have from Allah no protecting friend nor helper. (120)  

      November 18, 2010 at 11:45 am |
  17. Iqbal khan

    What did Jesus Really say?

    November 17, 2010 at 9:13 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      Where are the words Muhammed wrote? They don't exist. Like Jesus, Mohammed wrote nothing in the Q'uran.

      Doesn't that bother you at all?

      November 17, 2010 at 9:17 pm |
    • george

      it is much better to purify yourself I mean your religious, of terrorism, violence, hate and not accepting others instead of just trying to provide false and wrong information

      November 18, 2010 at 7:57 am |
  18. Iqbal khan

    Wake Up America! LOOK....

    Cost of War in Iraq & Afghanistan

    November 17, 2010 at 9:10 pm |
    • Reality

      We will send the bill to khan and any other Muslim out there who still believes in "angels" and warmongering prophets.

      November 18, 2010 at 9:02 am |
  19. Iqbal khan

    Want to know more about Islam? check...

    November 17, 2010 at 9:09 pm |
    • Reality

      Just some of what we know about Islam:

      1a) 179 killed in Mumbai/Bombay, 290 injured

      1b) Assassination of Benazir Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh

      2) 9/11, 3000 mostly US citizens, 1000’s injured

      3) The 24/7 Sunni-Shiite centuries-old blood feud currently being carried out in Iraq, US Troops killed in action, 3,481 and 924 died in non-combat98,691 – 107,707
      Iraqi civilians killed as of 11/9/2010, http://www.iraqbodycount.org/ and

      4) Kenya- In Nairobi, about 212 people were killed and an estimated 4000 injured; in Dar es Salaam, the attack killed at least 11 and wounded 85.[2]

      5) Bali-in 2002-killing 202 people, 164 of whom were foreign nationals, and 38 Indonesian citizens. A further 209 people were injured.

      6) Bali in 2005- Twenty people were killed, and 129 people were injured by three bombers who killed themselves in the attacks.

      7) Spain in 2004- killing 191 people and wounding 2,050.

      8. UK in 2005- The bombings killed 52 commuters and the four radical Islamic suicide bombers, injured 700.

      9) The execution of an eloping couple in Afghanistan on 04/15/2009 by the Taliban.

      10) – Afghanistan: US troops 1,116 killed in action, 902 killed in non-combat situations as of 08/10/2010. Over 40,000 Afghan civilians killed due to the dark-age, koranic-driven Taliban acts of horror

      11) The killing of 13 citizen soldiers at Ft. Hood by a follower of the koran.

      12) 38 Russian citizens killed on March 29, 2010 by Muslim women suicide bombers.

      13) The May 28, 2010 attack on a Islamic religious minority in Pakistan, which have left 98 dead,

      14) Lockerbie is known internationally as the site where, on 21 December 1988, the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 crashed as a result of a terrorist bomb. In the United Kingdom the event is referred to as the Lockerbie disaster, the Lockerbie bombing, or simply Lockerbie. Eleven townspeople were killed in Sherwood Crescent, where the plane's wings and fuel tanks plummeted in a fiery explosion, destroying several houses and leaving a huge crater, with debris causing damage to a number of buildings nearby. The 270 fatalities (259 on the plane, 11 in Lockerbie) were citizens of 21 nations

      15) Followed by the daily suicide and/or roadside and/or mosque bombings every day in the terror world of Islam.

      16) Bombs sent from Yemen by followers of the koran which fortunately were discovered before the bombs were detonated.

      17) The killing of 58 Christians in a Catholic church in one of the latest acts of horror and terror in Iraq.

      November 17, 2010 at 11:34 pm |
  20. David Johnson

    There is entirely too much racism going on in this country.

    Obama is a good President. Who cares what religion he is. All religion is made up by men.

    No one ever questioned Bill Clinton's faith. And he got a hummer, in the Oval Office

    Would you really have that idiot George W. Bush? He practically ruined the country, with a little help from his god.

    Obama is a Christian. But it really doesn't matter. There is no god.

    November 17, 2010 at 8:49 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      @David Johnson

      I am seeing that it does matter that he is subject to delusions.
      Or perhaps he is stretching things for political advantage and is finding it unethical going on the path of leadership.

      When he allows his personal religious beliefs to influence his decisions in a way that goes against the Constltution, then it matters a hell of a lot.
      In such a scenario, he would no longer be representing the American people, but only those who share his personal "faith". That is unethical. But I am used to it. If the Republicans can't come up with someone who is better at keeping their religion in their pants (not too likely, since Obama is pretty low-key), then I will vote for him.

      I hate the two-party system. It dominates and skews the whole political landscape. Add religion and you might as well give up on expecting ethical behavior, I guess. Too many prefer to cover their backsides hoping they won't have to be held accountable in the afterlife, either. One of the hallmarks of many religions.

      Anyway, how are ye? I have been emulating Peace2All and hitting the walls with my head. Cheers!

      November 17, 2010 at 9:10 pm |
    • Luke

      Unfortunately, it does matter in this country. It shouldn't, but it really does.

      November 18, 2010 at 8:13 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Sum Dude

      Hey, man! Always good to see you. I really like what you post! Stay healthy!


      November 18, 2010 at 8:32 am |
    • Frogist

      Funny how the breakdown splits those who call themselves republican as white christians while the dems still hold the minority christian and otherwise vote. I do find it disturbing that people today vote based on religion. The reality of how lopsided this country is has really come home to me over the past few years. I worry about people like me and my family who defy the norms.
      BTW I love the manifest destiny bit they threw in there... "A third major emerging issue was that a majority of Americans believe God has granted America a special role in human history. Again, members of the Tea Party and Republicans were most likely to hold this belief". I thought the age of empire was all gone. But apparently not. Americans are special because god said so... How long did it take England to learn it wasn't the conqueror of the world anymore? I'm doing a Rip Van Winkle till we figure it out that we're not superior over the other lesser people of the world.

      November 18, 2010 at 9:44 am |
    • civilioutside

      It's absolutely sickening that the Republican Senate minority leader declared his party's number one priority to be making sure Obama is a one-term President. Seriously? Shouldn't it be... oh... fixing the economy and getting people back to work? I know it's a bizarre thought that people maybe elect their legislators to represent the interests of their consituents rather than to "beat the other guy," but it might just be worth dwelling on.

      Incidentally, it would be equally sickening for a Democratic leader to make such a declaration about a Republican president in times such as these.

      November 18, 2010 at 11:40 am |
    • Frogist

      @civiloutside: I did wonder where all their talk about jobs and the economy went when the second they got in all they talked about was getting rid of the health care bill and ousting Obama. I would hope the people who voted for them realize they were duped.

      November 18, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
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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.