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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. Maria Carvalho

    It's simple: one wears magic underwear and expects to be a god in his own planet. The other one does'nt.

    July 26, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • scott

      So Obama wears magic underwear and thinks he is a god, typical OBama.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • roger

      Oh, Scott, you so craaaaaazy funny!

      Move along now.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • scott

      Thank you Roger, glad someone found the truth amusing -)

      July 26, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Rbnlegnd101

      Do you know some of the details about mormonism, Scott? No one has accused President Obama of being mormon. many other things, but not mormon. The magic underwear and afterlife planet stuff is exclusively mormon.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • ErikN

      And yet Maria got it wrong in the first place. Mormons do not believe in magic underwear.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • roger

      Well, ErikN, they do believe that the 'temple garments' offer spiritual protection....so, yeah, I think it's a magical pair of britches (with stylish matching tee!).

      Yet another kookie thing.

      July 26, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  2. solex

    Unfortunately, there are PLENTY of Americas who stop doing any research about the presidential candidates other than the color of their skin.

    July 26, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Brian

      What I find most amazing is the number of Americans who care to even vote. As if your vote will count.
      Voting is only a way of confirming a candidate that we the people truly had no voice in choosing in the first place.
      a non vote says more to the establishment than a pretend vote ever could. You & I haven't enough money or influence to make our vote count. I would love to see what would happen if no one voted for either of these two clowns. Maybe just maybe true change.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • J.W

      It would be different if we could get rid of the electoral collage.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  3. 0G-No gods, ghosts, ghouls, goblins or guns

    Vote Obama – he's the least delusional.

    July 26, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  4. Jan Griffiths

    Many Americans don't know the religion of their political candidates.
    Who cares!!??
    This is an American obsession, and it's irrelevant and out-of-date.
    Separation of Church and State indeed!

    July 26, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  5. J.W

    How could anyone not know Mitt Romney's religion by now. They talk about it in the news constantly.

    July 26, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • BRC

      @J.W.
      I've stoppped thinking about what people don't know. I'm sure there are still people out there who don't know that cigaretts drastically increase your chance of lung cancer.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • harviele

      Do they discuss that on Fox Republican News Network? Has Rush Limbaugh addressed it? If the answer is no to either of these questions then there would be a lot of conservatives who don't know.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Paul Hartzer

      The same way so many people can think Obama is a Muslim. They're either not paying attention or they're paying attention to the wrong sources.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  6. craig

    Many Americans don't know anything. Also, there are a vast number of functional illiterates who can barely get through the day and they probably don't know who's running for president. Sad situation.

    July 26, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  7. Reggie from LA

    "Many Americans don't know religion of either presidential candidate"
    ---------------------------–
    "Many Americans" are either faining ignorance or are just ignorant. The Christian Right knows Robme is Mormon. They just don't want to acknowledge it for political convenience. It's also necessary for them to harp on the "Muslim falsehood" regarding Obama that many have been trained to believe or just choose to harp on.

    July 26, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  8. GRZ

    Do people really want a leader who still believes in imaginary friends?

    July 26, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Do we really care what a person who would trivialize a person's belief as "imaginary friends" thinks?

      July 26, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • GRZ

      Apparently so if the time was taken to respond, check!

      July 26, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • lou

      yes deity worship is a kin to a child's imaginary friend.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • Rundvelt

      > Do we really care what a person who would trivialize a person's belief as "imaginary friends" thinks?

      To suggest that someone's ideas should be discounted because he's disrespectful to someone's beliefs is moronic and you should feel ashamed.

      As for the point about imaginary friends, it's accurate. Sorry if you don't like it. God, even if one existed, currently is indistinguishable from an imaginary friend to the outside observer. If you disagree, please provide a quality of God that would not exist in an imaginary friend.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @GRZ- care about your opinion? No. Care enough to respond to make fun of you? Of course. 🙂
      check mate

      July 26, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Rundvelt- "To suggest that someone's ideas should be discounted because he's disrespectful to someone's beliefs is moronic and you should feel ashamed."

      I think someone's imagination is on overdrive. I never said he should be ignored or discounted. I just asked if we should care? I feel no shame in asking that question.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • GRZ

      @Lycidas – make fun of? where was that line. Fact is you do care, just admit it, it's OK. I made an opinion that bothered you, you asked if we should care, you obviously do since you responded, that is all. I fail to see where the making fun was, but maybe you and your imaginary friend up there get that one only.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @GRZ- "where was that line."

      Don't fret your little head over it.

      "I made an opinion that bothered you,"

      You made a comment that was begging a response...I gave you one. Though it seems your ego isn't filled yet. Please repsond again and I'll see what I can do for you.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • GRZ

      @Lycidas – you bore me as you probably do people most in your life I'm sure. You repliled because you are one who needs to be heard, your ego demands it, not mine. LOL, I do this to bother your little minds full of middle age beliefs and it works.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Lycidas

      GRZ- "you bore me as you probably do people most in your life I'm sure."

      Ad Hominum...fail.

      "your ego demands it, not mine."

      And yet here you are also.

      "I do this to bother..."

      Sure you do.

      July 27, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  9. dug

    who cares what their religion is all politicians and laywers and bankers go to hell anyways. It is in the bible

    July 26, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  10. Dave

    Funny how this article only talks about Romney. It totally ignores Obama's connection to Reverant Wright.

    July 26, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Timothy Biddiscombe

      "Obama has repeatedly talked about his Christian faith, and his relationship with his controversial former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright..." – reading comprehension is not a big thing with Republicans its seems 🙂

      July 26, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Lycidas

      "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."

      July 26, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • oliver

      @ Timothy. Not only is it not big, it's intellectual elitism. And that's bad

      July 26, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  11. AGuest9

    There are many other, more important, facts about these men that voters don't know. However, the electorate is as ignorant of facts as it has always been because, after all, opinions are more important.

    July 26, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  12. PrimeNumber

    Romney is a Mormon. I've been around very many spiritually inclined people. When they express themselves, it's easy to see their sincerity. Recently, I heard our current Premier speaking about his "faith". He was completely unconvincing. I couldn't help think "he doesn't really believe what he's saying."

    July 26, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      I couldn't help but think you're a biased republican.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Timothy Biddiscombe

      I couldnt help but thinking you dont believe what YOU are saying...

      July 26, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • scott

      sqeptiq

      I couldn't help but think you're a biased republican
      _____________________________________
      I couldn't help but think that no one cares what you think.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Rbnlegnd101

      I don't think prime number is entirely wrong. Obama is a mainstream christian. He goes to church when he has time, but he's not a deeply spiritual man consumed with faith, just like most people who are identified as christians. In the US, it's very easy to be a christian with no real spiritual energy, no strong faith, you just wear the label and say some of the key words every now and then. He may have had a more spiritually active time in his life, but, the president doesn't have a lot of time for something that isn't a huge priority in his life. If you need a president who is deeply spiritual, get used to disappointment.

      July 26, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  13. anagram_kid

    It really does not matter. The Christian right won’t vote for President Obama because it is contrary to the teachings of Christ that say hatefulness and willful ignorance are the greatest virtues of mankind. If someone is more accomplished than you or simply not like you, it is only right to demonize them at every turn. Even if they do something that improves your life or is exactly what you would do, Jesus tells us to despise them. He also said we should make as much money as possible and blame the misfortune of others on themselves for not being greedy and selfish. Did I get that right??? /sarcasm off

    July 26, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  14. roger

    Mormons believe that Jesus lived in America, the Garden of Eden is in Missouri, Jews sailed to America on boats thousands of years ago, and non-whites are that way because God is punishing them. Their prophet read golden plates by putting them in a hat with some rocks and then sticking his face in the hat.

    I'm not religious in any way, but that just smacks of insanity. I can't trust that anyone who believes in that is capable of being rational when running a country.

    July 26, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • William Demuth

      The Mormon founder was a con man, just as todays leaders are.

      Romney is smart to keep his mouth shut.

      If the truth ever came out, the Christians would stone him to death

      July 26, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Or not.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Randy

      I used to Mormon and Mormons do not believe Jesus Christ lived in America. They believe he visited America after he was resurrected. Get your facts straight before you post. Thanks.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Iconoclast

      I find Mormonism to be an all too convenient way of "Americanizing" Jesus. The faith started the same time that "manifest destiny" and rapid expansion of our borders took off in the 1840's. Seems to fit the notion that God gave Americans the right to conquer this land and it's native people because we have the "higher purpose" and Jesus was on our side.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Carl

      Just to clear up blatant inaccuracies: Mormons don't believe Jesus lived in America, but that he visited it after his resurrection. Mormons don't believe God is punishing non-whites. Joseph Smith did not put the plates and a rock in a hat.
      Spreading misinformation as fact does not lend to the credibility of your argument.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Randy

      Also if you are Christian you believe Jonah was swallowed by a big fish later to be thrown up still alive. You believe Noah fit two of every species onto a little boat and then the world was flooded. You also believe that jesus was brought back from the dead. BUT the all that Mormon stuff is weird. Yeah OK.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • roger

      Randy,

      Whether he lived or decided to take a vacation here after he popped out of the tomb, big whup...still smacks of crazy!

      And no, Randy, I don't believe in Christian beliefs either. I believe in what I can see and touch. I don't have time to waste finding proof of a god in ANY religious form.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • roger

      Carl,

      God turned the skin of white non-believers black and if they proved themselves to be worthy of God's forgiveness he would turn them back. That's what the Book of Mormon says. Look it up.

      Joseph Smith DID put the golden plates and the 'seer stones' into a white stovepipe hat, then put his face in the hat to block out the lights so that the seer stones would glow and translate the inscription on the tablets. He then transcribed the words he read to Martin Harris.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • Jared

      @Randy
      Jonah was swallowed by a whale.

      July 26, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  15. WiseUp

    Politicians use their religion as "fashion" anyway.

    July 26, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  16. Johnny

    It will take a Mormon to take this country where it needs to be...

    July 26, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • Huebert

      You misspelled atheist.

      July 26, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • lunchbreaker

      Huebert, very nice.

      July 26, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      We already know where Missouri is and don't want to go there.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      In hell!

      July 26, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      Yea, in hell!

      July 26, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Iconoclast

      Frankly, if ever there was an "anti-Christ" it would be Romney. This man creeps me out right to my bones and I know enough to rely upon my instincts.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  17. Keith

    One's muslim. One's mormon. Done.

    July 26, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • BRC

      Do you honestly believe he's a Muslim, or are you just looking to start arguments?

      July 26, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • lunchbreaker

      Gonna ask for the birth certificate next?

      July 26, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Observer

      Keith,

      You have ZERO PROOF that President Obama is a Muslim, so why make such IGNORANT statements?

      July 26, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      If we ever have a test to see who is knowledgeable enough to vote, you will be dismissed.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      And one confederate!

      July 26, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Zorak

      Obama is a Marslum. He was born on Mars, and raised Marslum by his Martian father. Nothing you say will change those FACTS.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  18. Peace2All

    From the Article:

    " 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. "

    Really ? Not buying that conclusion at all.

    Peace...

    July 26, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      I dunno, I could see that. I think the percentage of religious-right zealots is overblown by the media. Those that don't think that Obama is a muslim probably don't particularly care what he believes and most people probably don't have a clue what mormonism is, so they're likely to be disinterested as well.

      July 26, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @*facepalm*

      It's certainly possible... I understand your point.

      President Obama's religion has been consistently called into question, by the religious zealots, with him being overtly called a Muslim, which in our society is like being called a Communist back in the 50's. (And he's been called that too.).

      Even the left has questioned whether or not he's a 'real christian' and people in the voting both by numbers 'are' typically mildly to quite religious.

      Governor Romney, as well has consistently been derided as not being 'a real' Christian... and of course there's the whole 'magic underwear' and having 'their own planet' issue, that has been hotly debated.

      So... to say it will have -0- or a negligible effect... I'm just not so sure about that.

      Peace...

      July 26, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      I wonder if some people say it won't have any effect because they simply won't vote for him anyway. Clinton, for example, was obviously Christian, but the religious right wasn't going to vote for him no matter what.

      July 26, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  19. whaaa?

    The movie Idiocracy continues to play itself out in real life. Most of the populace likely knows more about Kim Kardashian than they do about our president.

    July 26, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • roger

      So true!

      Now go away! I'm 'batin'! 🙂

      July 26, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  20. Rundvelt

    Americans ignorant? You don't say!

    I dislike using stereotypes, but I think that this is rather telling. How is it that you don't know the most basic information about the people running for president.

    July 26, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      "How is it that you don't know the most basic information about the people running for president."

      Considering most believe in the existence of a god this shouldn't come as a surprise at all.

      July 26, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Rundvelt

      > Considering most believe in the existence of a god this shouldn't come as a surprise at all.

      True enough.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      Look at the most popular magazines in America: Focus on celebrities, cars, and sports/hunting/fishing. Most Americans STILL believe that WMD were found in Iraq and don't believe in evolution. 'nuff said.

      July 26, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Lizzie

      sqeptiq: what would you call chemical weapons that killed hundred thousands of Kurds, water guns??????

      July 26, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
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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.