Pew: Many Americans don't know religion of either presidential candidate
The Pew report said that views of the candidates’ religious identifies were unlikely to shape the election in a major way.
July 26th, 2012
12:11 PM ET

Pew: Many Americans don't know religion of either presidential candidate

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - Americans have limited knowledge of the presidential candidates’ religious faith, but their concerns about the candidates’ respective religious beliefs are unlikely to play a major role in the 2012 race, according to a Pew survey released Thursday.

Most Americans, 60%, know that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is a Mormon; he would be the first member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints elected to the White House. Among those who are aware of Romney’s religion, 81% say that they are comfortable with it or that it doesn’t matter to them.

At the same time, 32% of Americans don’t know that Romney is Mormon, and another 9% identify him as the member of  another tradition, the Pew survey found. Earlier surveys have suggested that those who don’t know that Romney is a Mormon are less likely to vote for a Mormon candidate.

The Pew survey showed that only 49% of Americans identify President Barack Obama as Christian, though that number has grown from 38% two years ago.

Obama has repeatedly talked about his Christian faith, and his relationship with his controversial former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was a major political liability during his 2008 presidential campaign.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

The Pew survey found that 17% of registered voters think Obama is a Muslim, while 31% say they do not know the president’s religion.

Thirty percent of Republicans say Obama is Muslim, Pew found, about twice as many who said that during the 2008 campaign.

The national survey was conducted from June 28 to July 9 among 2,973 adults, including 2,373 registered voters, by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.

Despite misunderstandings about the faith of the candidates, the Pew report said that views of the presidential contenders’ religious identifies were unlikely to shape the election in a major way.

“Along religious lines, white evangelical Protestants and black Protestants, on the one hand, and atheists and agnostics on the other, are the most likely to say they are uncomfortable with Romney’s faith,” the Pew report said. “Yet unease with Romney’s religion has little impact on voting preferences.”

“Republicans and white evangelicals overwhelmingly back Romney irrespective of their views of his faith,” the report said, “and Democrats and seculars overwhelmingly oppose him regardless of their impression.”

At the same time, the comfort level with Romney’s religion appears to have an impact on enthusiasm for the former Massachusetts governor.

“Among Republican and Republican-leaning voters who say they are comfortable with Romney being Mormon, 44% back him strongly,” the Pew report said. “Among those who are uncomfortable with it, just 21% say they back him strongly.”

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When it comes to Obama’s religion, just 45% of voters say they are comfortable with it. But among the half of Americans who correctly identify Obama as a Christian, comfort level with his beliefs is much higher: 82%.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Mormonism • Politics • Polls

soundoff (886 Responses)
  1. oslob whale shark watching

    You really make it seem so easy together with your presentation however I in finding this topic to be actually one thing which I think I would never understand. It kind of feels too complex and extremely wide for me. I am looking ahead for your subsequent post, I will attempt to get the grasp of it!

    November 21, 2012 at 8:34 am |
  2. Dyslexic doG

    the upcoming election will prove two points.
    (a) that christians are believers according to convenience, and
    (b) that republican christians are republicans first and christians second

    Romney is a mormon which is a religion that, as well as co-optingsome parts and characters from the bible word for word, also contradicts and makes a mockery of so many key christian religious beliefs that it should be a bigger issue to christians than gay marriage and abortion. But ... the same way as christians always pick and choose which parts of the bible to loudly proclaim and which parts of the bible to pretend don't exist ... they will ignore all these issues and vote for Romney anyway.

    What do you think God/Jesus will think of you if you give your vote to a man who truly believes that he will one day be a God? Or a man who truly believes that Joseph Smith, a 19th century reknowned con-man, is an equal of Jesus?

    Go on christans, pretend you never read this post. Find some obscure bible quote that will justify you supporting a cult. What a joke!

    August 4, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
  3. jennie

    Wow ~ I would love to see the day that religion, whether extremely devout or graciously free from it, doesn't have such a stranglehold on the political structure of our country. Based on the polls, most Americans don't have a clue about what religious affiliation our leaders have. The only thing we care about is if they differ from our own point of view. The sooner we realize that that religion is a farce, the better.

    August 1, 2012 at 3:12 am |
  4. Joe Drager

    True of the religion, but one thing is certain, we know that Romney is in fact an American citizen.

    July 30, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • MDDon

      Have you seen Romney's birth certificate? You have seen Obama's and he is clearly U.S. Born and hence an American.I would say the evidence is much clearer in his case.

      July 30, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  5. Reality

    What we do understand about religion- WE WOULD SAVE A LOT OF MONEY WITHOUT IT:

    To wit:

    How much money would the following save the US taxpayers ?: (And how many “souls” would be saved?)

    Saving 1.5 billion lost Muslims:
    There never were and never will be any angels i.e. no Gabriel, no Islam and therefore no more koranic-driven acts of horror and terror LIKE 9/11.

    – One trillion dollars over the next several years as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will end.

    – Eighteen billion dollars/yr to Pakistan will stop.

    – Four billion dollars/yr to Egypt will end.

    Saving 2 billion lost Christians including the Mormons:
    There were never any bodily resurrections and there will never be any bodily resurrections i.e. No Easter, no Christianity!!!

    – The Mormon ti-the empire will now become taxable as will all Christian "religions" and evangelical non-profits since there is no longer any claim to being a tax-exempt religion.

    – Saving 15.5 million Orthodox followers of Judaism:
    Abraham and Moses probaby never existed.


    Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell.

    – Four billion dollars/yr to Israel saved.

    – All Jewish sects and non-profits will no longer be tax exempt.

    Now all we need to do is convince these 3.5+ billion global and local citizens that they have been conned all these centuries Time for a YouTube,Twitter and FaceBook campaign!!!!


    July 28, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • ....


      July 28, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • John

      Hell is waiting. Ignorance takes many forms.

      July 28, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • Reality

      As we scroll to the 21st century with a prayer:

      The Apostles' Creed 2012 (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

      Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
      ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

      (References used are available upon request.)

      July 29, 2012 at 12:47 am |
    • sheila

      Really does it matter ...LOL Does it really matter what religion they are do you have a say .....NO NOT AT ALL

      July 29, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Reality

      Actually, we do have a say as we have the power of the vote and the power of our representatives in Congress. And indeed an empty basket on Sunday/Saturday will send the message loud and clear.

      July 29, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • jennie

      Thank you, reality. It seems like you put a lot of thought into your post 🙂

      August 1, 2012 at 3:17 am |
  6. Kindness

    This is my experience... Thank you.

    MY personal testimony.
    A thought to consider without an ego response

    I Accepted Jesus christ as my lord and saviour. You never know how soon is too late. Transcend the worldly illusion of enslavement.
    The world denounces truth....

    Accepting Jesus Christ (for me) resulted in something like seeng a new colour. You will see it .....but will not be able to clearly explain it to anyone else..... Its meant to be that way to transend any selfism within you.

    Also... much the world arranges "surrounding dark matter into something to be debated" in such a way that protects/inflates the ego.

    The key is be present and transcend our own desire to physically see evidence. We don't know anyways by defending our own perception of dark matter.

    Currently.... most of us are constructing our own path that suits our sin lifestyle. Were all sinners. Knowing that we are is often an issue. But both christians and non are sinners. Even once we are saved by christs merciful grace we will still experience adversity to mold us to adhering to the truth.
    We will slip... But not fall of the ship ...carrying us onward to perfection in christs grace.

    We don't like to Let go and let god. We want control to some degree. This is what Jesus asks us to do. "Follow me".
    It's the hardest thing to do... but is done by letting the truth of scripture lead you (redemptive revelation)... as I said .

    Try reading corinthians and see if it makes sense to you. Try it without a pre conceived notion of it being a fairy tale.
    See the truth...
    do we do what it says in todays society... is it relevant... so many have not recently read and only hinge their philosophy on what they have heard from some other person...which may have been full of arogance pride or vanity..

    Look closely at the economy ponzi, look at how society idolizes Lust , greed , envy, sloth, pride of life, desire for knowledge, desire for power, desire for revencge,gluttony with food etc .

    Trancsend the temporal world.

    Just think if you can find any truth you can take with you ....in any of these things. When you die your riches go to someone who will spend away your life..... You will be forgotten.... history will repeat iteslf.... the greatest minds knowledge fade or are eventually plagerzed..... your good deeds will be forgotten and only give you a fleeting temporary reward . your learned teachings are forgotten or mutated..... your gold is transfered back to the rullers that rule you through deception. Your grave will grow over . This is truth .

    Trancsend your egoism and free yourself from this dominion of satan. Understand you are a sinner and part of the collective problem of this worldly matrix... Repent.... Repent means knowing (to change) The Holy spirit (within) will convict you beyond what you think you can do by yourself. Grace is given to those who renounce the world. That are" in" the world but not "of " the world.

    Evidence follows faith. Faith does not follow evidence..... Faith ....above reason in Jesus Christ.

    Faith comes by Reading or Hearing the word of god from the bible . Ask Jesus in faith for dicernment and start reading the new testament... You will be shocked when you lay down your preconceived notions and ....see and hear truth ... see how christ sets an example ... feel the truth....

    Read Ecclesiastes. Read romans or corinthians.

    You cant trancend your own egoism by adapting a world philosophy to suit your needs. Seek the truth in Christ.

    Sell all your cleverness and purchase true bewilderment. You don't get what you want ....you get what you are by faith above reason in christ.

    I promise this has been the truth for me. In Jesus christ .

    Think of what you really have to lose. ...your ego?

    Break the Matrix of illusion that holds your senses captive.

    once you do . you too will have the wisdom of God that comes only through the Holy Spirit. Saved By grace through Faith. Just like seeing a new colour.... can't explain it to a transient caught in the matrix of worldly deception.
    You will also see how the world suppresses this information and distorts it

    You're all smart people . I tell the truth. Its hard to think out of the box when earthly thinking is the box.
    I'ts a personal free experience you can do it free anytime . Don't wait till you are about to die.. START PUTTING YOUR TREASURES WHERE THEY REALLY MATTER >
    Its awsome and It's just between you and Jesus

    my testimony

    Romans 10:9

    "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved

    July 28, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  7. donner

    About October, the media will drop the Mormon bombshell. Does the average American know that Mitt Romney believes he will be transported to planet Kolob when he dies? They do not. They soon will. And if you can find planet Kolob in your Bible, send up a flare.. Romney is toast.

    July 27, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • John

      Are you aware that there are only two choices for President:
      The one that can and will fix the disaster of the current regime: Mr. Romney.
      The clown who as been a disappointment that was even worse than logic could dictate: Mr. Fraud

      July 28, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • MDDon

      You must think someone cares. I surely don't, but I will vote for Obama, anyway.

      July 30, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  8. Article6

    "Pew: Many Americans don't know religion of either presidential candidate"

    Anyway, it's (someone's) not a requirement, hence, it's absolutely okay. Thus, doesn't matter much.

    July 27, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  9. Tyler

    Anyone who says that Obama is NOT a Christian is just plain stupid. He actually is showing Christ's teachings more so than most who declare themselves as Christians. Please forbid someone trying to actually help those in need in this country, the ones who are sometimes outcasts or looked down upon. Jesus constantly ate, spoke, blessed, and touched people who were thought to be "wrong" by the society's standards.

    Christians WAKE UP and see that the only threat to you religion is you.

    July 27, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • John

      Normally I wouldn't waste time commenting on such drivel, but since you seem to representative of the new unthinking, brain dead America, I feel inclined to offer this observation: How is living in your parents basement been working out for you?

      July 28, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      John. Nicely done. (sarcasm) You offer no facts or information but revert to name calling. Typical religious M.O. Tylers point was outstanding. Offer us something if you have anything.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • open cinnamon shoe

      Anyone who believes obama IS a Christian is just plain stupid. See what I did there? Opinions....

      August 10, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • LinCA

      @open cinnamon shoe

      You said, "Anyone who believes obama IS a Christian is just plain stupid. See what I did there? Opinions...."
      While he has publicly claimed to be a christian, I also have a hard time believing that he actually is one. I don't see how someone of such considerable intelligence can not be an atheist.

      I suspect he shed the bullshit years ago but, like most politicians simple keeps up the charade. It is far easier for a rational person to pretend to be a believer than the other way around.

      August 10, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  10. Reality


    Added details upon request.

    July 27, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  11. archon12

    Thats cool:) - now if we can get the candidates to not HAVE a religion, we'd be golden

    July 27, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • god's savior

      a leader of the free world who doesn't believe in an imaginary sky wizard???? that would be scary!

      July 27, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  12. William

    I think when a person says "President Obama is not a Christian", he/she means "President Obama does not fit my definition of a Christian." Realistically, I prefer this to the alternative where Christianity has one central authoritative figure that dictates who is or is not a Christian (although in theory the Catholic church still follows that structure). For in that case, the central authoritative figure has too much power and we would become a theocracy.

    July 27, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • god's savior

      one could say that since they are the original church, that every church (including yours assuming you're protestant) is a bucket full of sin. Catholics invented it, you changed it dooming yourself and your descendants to an eternity of fire and brimstone in a lake of fire.

      July 27, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Maxwell Smart

      "you changed it dooming yourself and your descendants to an eternity of fire and brimstone in a lake of fire."

      Ah, the old Lake of Fire trick.

      July 27, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • open cinnamon shoe

      Does he meet Jesus' definition of Christian? Thats the only opinion that matters. Also, I appreciate your opinion on what you feel God should be like. I'll be sure and bring it up to Him at the next meeting. I'm sure he's gonna put a rush on considering your very valid points.

      August 10, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  13. god's savior

    Mormons believe that they intend to be gods themselves some day, and are helping to earn their exaltation to godhood by talking to you. If recruited you are a notch on the belt. When they go to heaven they will have many many many spiritual Wives (plural marriages). The wives will remain eternally pregnant in heaven, endlessly having the mans spirit babies. Once the man has enough spirit babies from his many orgiies with his many spirit wives they will all eventually inhabit another planet where the spirit babies will be born and the man will be the LOCAL god over that planet. We are currently worshiping our LOCAL god (yes our god/jesus were once real men like mitt romney). The true god over all the local gods lives on planet Kolob. GOOGLE IT!!! Mormons are crazy.... also google joeseph smith lol, the founder of mormons who was a convicted felon

    July 27, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Dwight Rogers

      The enemies of Joseph charged him with fraud in various property conveyances, mostly in behalf of the Church. A succession of court proceedings that extended for nearly a decade examined these claims in meticulous detail. Finally, in 1852, long after the Saints’ exodus from Illinois (so there was no conceivable political or other cause for anyone to favor the Prophet), a federal judge concluded this litigation with a decree that found no fraud or other moral impropriety by the Prophet. (See Dallin H. Oaks and Joseph I. Bentley, “Joseph Smith and Legal Process: In the Wake of the Steamboat Nauvoo,” BYU Law Review [1976]: 735.)

      Joseph’s appearance before the judge was not a trial, it was a hearing. No verdict was rendered upon Joseph; he was simply charged for court costs and the case was not pursued further. Joseph was never convicted of any crime. The critics of the LDS church are not forthcoming with this important detail. Instead they imply, or even lie, saying that Joseph was convicted. He was not!

      The critics also conveniently neglect to mention that the 1826 hearing was about Joseph’s being employed by Josiah Stowell to look for an old Spanish silver mine. Josiah Stowell testified FOR Joseph as a defense witness at this hearing, and did not believe that Joseph had defrauded him at all. Stowell testified of Joseph's claims, "Do I believe it? No, it is not a matter of belief: I positively know it [Joseph’s claims] to be true." The charges were brought by Stowell's family members, who appear to have been worried that Josiah would accept Joseph's religious claims. Stowell himself joined the Church founded by Joseph and remained a faithful member to the day of his death.

      July 27, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Dwight Rogers

      You mock by saying "yes our god/jesus were once real men like mitt romney". Jesus was a real man in the sense that He took upon him a real mortal body. Contrary to the creeds, the resurrected Jesus taught: "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have." (Luke 24:39)

      From this passage we know that Jesus had his physical body after the resurrection. We also know that when Christ comes again, he will still have his physical body. (Zech. 14:4; 12:10; 13:6; John 20:24-28, Acts 1:9-11; Rev 1:7; 1 Cor. 15:3-8, 12-20, 35-42; D&C 93:33).

      July 27, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Dwight Rogers

      You say :“If recruited you are a notch on the belt. When they go to heaven they will have many many many spiritual Wives.” How about cite references in Mormon scripture or Mormon sources that this is what they teach? They don’t teach these things.

      July 27, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  14. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things ,

    July 27, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • god's savior

      "other living things"
      like what dogs, cats, bacteria?

      July 27, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!|

      July 27, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • Hugh Jass

      Prayer can't change a diaper. Don't be ridiculous. Pray all you like but don't expect anything. Here's the deal:people who actually knew Jesus had no "faith" in Him. If you saw a miracle, your faith would be lost as well; Jesus would become a scientific fact. At least, that's what they say.

      July 27, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • just sayin

      @gods savor
      Everything, all things are made unhealthy through the sin of atheism. God bless

      July 27, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Just fiction is spouting nonsense, again. This "the sin of atheism" of his/her's is but an invention. There is no such thing as either.

      July 27, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • open cinnamon shoe

      Prayer absolutely works. Check out the Bible. God doesnt hear the prayers of the wicked except for one specific prayer (can you guess which one?). If prayer isnt working for you then dont blame God that you refuse to honor him at all in your life and then he repays the favor. Or perhaps stop praying to pass a drug test and pray for your soul.

      August 10, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  15. effelbee

    Americans are astonishingly ignorant, but of course the far right has worked very hard to convince 30% of Republicans that our President is a Muslim. This is an overt piece of deception worthy of the former Soviet Union.

    July 27, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Hogan's Goat

      A lot of people also don't realize what Faux News is about. I see black people watching it sometimes and actually seeming alarmed.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • god's savior

      pro tip: add a parental block to the faux news channel at your parents/grand parents house for their protection.

      July 27, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • open cinnamon shoe

      Oh but CNN is the bastion of even handed politics right? Go spend a day on ABC news and see if you dont notice a trend....like actual articles from each view point. Those that make fun of Fox on a CNN board are truly the lowest common denominator. Much like numbers, they also lack any insight. Hilarious really.

      August 10, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  16. Wunter Slouch

    Why does it matter, there should be a division of church and state. But if you are voting with a religious bias, I would really recomend finding a buddist candidate, as christian are far to hate filled to govern.

    July 27, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Hogan's Goat

      Buddhists can be pretty vicious. How about a Shao-lin master as secretary of state?

      July 27, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  17. mattmchugh

    Regarding religion and politics in America: Your personal source of spiritual comfort has absolutely no place in public policy.

    - mm

    July 27, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      It's like having a general who hugs his security blanket during the battle.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • sheila

      I think you should beleive in what you want to beleive in .......,but when the time comes all shall bow before him who created them ...Amen Your heart knows

      July 29, 2012 at 4:14 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.