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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. Drew

    30% of Republicans think Obama is a Muslim? Well, that certainly says a lot about Republicans, doesn't it? Pathetic! But I guess that's what one gets for watching Fox News: misinformation.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  2. 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 26, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • god's savior

      thats why mormons "baptize" the dead. remember the controversy last year when they attempted to baptize all the holocoaust victims into the mormon faith? They routinely baptize abortion victims into the mormon faith every year, they make a big deal about it. I am not sure who in the church is getting the "spirit baby" points for their belt, but its probably thE leader

      July 26, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • David

      Wow, some big, bad Mormon do something mean to you? You've got your panties all in a wad for some reason. Every religion has got there skeletons in the closet. What religion are you? I am sure we can come up with crazy stuff that someone who doesn't really know your beliefs said the religion stands for. I am not Mormon so I can't clarify anything you said, but I would suggest talking to a member before believing something you just read on the internet... because we all know how smart one has to be if they believe everything they read on the internet. GOOGLE IT! 😉

      July 26, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  3. Lynette lucas

    President Obama has clearly made it known that he is a Christian; however, some people refuse to accept this fact out of nothing but sheer racism. Many people create excuses, not real reasons to vote againt a good man.. Instead of the focus being on religion, it should be on a candidate's relationship with Jesus Christ. President Obama is trying to take care of "the least of these". Mr. Romney wants to take care of the people who lack nothing but mercy and compassion. He plans to take from the needy to give to the greedy.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • rob

      I agree with you, I think he's a good man and just has not been given a chance to do the things he is trying to do for our country. And he's a Christian.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • ChrissyinFL

      In America, electing a president should be based on how well he will do in the secular office. That should be irrespective of his faith, and that faith should not weigh his decisions for what is best for the country. A good man is a good man, whether or not he is a Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Agnostic, Atheist, or whatever. That is half the problem in this country...a separation of church and state is not being enforced in what is supposed to be our secular government. If it truly operated in a secular manner, there would be a lot less discrimination and racism in this country.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • lucentsky

      Without endorsing Obama's opposition in the least, I'd like to point out that if you look at Obama's policies, he's actually done VERY little to bring about real economic change. His campaign was supported primarily by the financial industry, and he rewarded them by bringing in economic advisors who's policies were in line with the current financial establishment–the same one that failed. While Obama certainly seems likeable, those traits ought ot be totally meaningless. It's a sale. A commercial. It's like voting for a tube of toothpaste.

      If you really want to see social and economic change, you have to criticize the man who could have done something but didn't do enough, even when there are worse options in the next election.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  4. rob

    I would never vote for an atheist. They are preachier than the worst of Christians.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Lynda

      Then you obviously don't know any atheists or those of your acquaintance figure it is none of your business.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  5. Roger Ogilvy Thornhill

    I think they both have a personal relationship with $$$ in their own ways, right?

    July 26, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  6. Rinsewind

    I don't care what religion a president is, I don't care if he or she has no religious affiliation or is an atheist. Can he or she do the job? WIll the economy improve? Wages go up? Less unemployment? That's all I care about.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  7. Ran

    If you can be made to believe in magical underwear....you can be made to believe in anything.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • god's savior

      that magical underwear that mormons wear (including mitt) is to protect them from non-believers such as Catholics, baptists, and Methodists, etc. They believed black people were incapable of going to heaven up until 1978. The change was due to the imminent revocation of their protected religious status by the US gov't due to racial discrimination in their doctrine.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • David

      wow!!! the bigot's are running rampant on cnn.com today. what year is it? oh yeah, 2012. I thought we might allow others to believe how they desire by now. y'all are nuts. you better check yourselves before you start throwing others under the bus. Not a good road to get started down.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  8. uzumakiw

    Who cares about their religion. People who care really need to reassess their priorities in life.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  9. SurelyUjest

    Religion shouldn't be a factor in American politics, unfortunately the fundimentalist on the right who are huge supporters of the GOP force this issue in to the grand sceme of things. Frankly someone's faith is their faith, if during a debate however they spout that the Earth is only 6000 yrs old or that being gay is a SIN or should have the ability to Marry denied legally due to their beliefs then....yes it comes in to play. Otherwise religion should be banned from the political arena. Unfortunately we Americans are still too shallow to invite a truely intelligent conversation when it comes to politics.

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

      I don't think that American's deserve so much of the blame for being ill-informed. I think it's just a predictable outcome of the American implementation of democracy. Namely, that so much of a stake in government is given to those who own more property. We aren't really given a real democratic choice in an election. We are given two candidates who differ only very slightly but are still within a narrow band of business doctrine, becuase the business leaders are the group that are paying for campaigns. There's no real motivation for informing the public; in fact, they want to do the opposite by keeping us stupid and docile and away from any real information that could lead us to actually get in the way of those who are supposed to make the decisions.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • J.W

      The reason people dont follow it is because it is set up so that each individual vote does not make a lot of difference.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • lucentsky

      @J.W: More important, it's set up that you have a very, VERY restricted choice in candidate. In fact, if you look at their actual policies, they are almost identical election after election. This is because they are selected and financed by the business community, which expects to be "paid" for their "investment."

      July 26, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  10. thisismadness

    this article was ment to make the audience argue about religion...how obvious

    July 26, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  11. Barry G.

    There was an excellent article in Harper's Magazine recently, describing Romney's membership in the Morman faith. It gave an excellent summary of the origins of the Mormans (started in the 1800's), and their beliefs and practices.

    Pres. Obama is a Christian.

    As the Apostle Paul wrote in his New Testament epistle to the Christians at Corinth, anyone who says Jesus is Lord (God) is a Christian.

    Pres. Obama acknowledges that Jesus is the son of God and was crucified for the sins of the world. That's a Christian.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Unless Jesus is your cat.

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

      So Apparently do Mormons the only difference is Joseph Smith was a nut job that for some reason people listened to him, gave money to him, followed him accross the country. He must have been charismatic? I guess jesus was charismatic too. Still Why would we want to use this as a guide to picking president. In my life being an Atheist, Christian, Muslim, Hindu or Pagan never indicated whether you were smart, nice, good, ethical, or a good leader. I find that all belief systems or lack of belief systems have people that follow them. These people are regardless of faith, prone to the same weaknesses and strengths of any other person. It is best to listen to ideas and the ability to communicate those ideas.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • Barry G.

      I was taught never to argue with a fool.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  12. Glazed Look

    Since all religions are destructive, I guess we are stuck with a president that claims one ... so really, 'who' is 'what' religion is irrelevant.. I'm going to vote for the guy who seems most likable, least sleazy, street smart, common sense, caring, compassionate, for all the people

    July 26, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • lucentsky

      " I'm going to vote for the guy who seems most likable, least sleazy, street smart, common sense, caring, compassionate, for all the people"

      I think this is the most destructive way you can possibly vote. Such personal qualities are EXACTLY what the PR campaigns that run elections expect you to vote on, which is why they can effectively refuse to inform anyone about what the actual policies are behind the candidate.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      The last time a GOP President was elected, the strategy (in part) was based on "the guy you'd most like to have a beer with". Ironic for a former drinker, and not at all useful with a Mormon.

      In contrast, Mr. Obama actually had a beer with people.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  13. Bunkie Moon

    Obama still acts like a Muslim ...

    July 26, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      How so?

      Please present the thesis demonstrating that your conclusion follows.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • god's savior

      durka durka

      July 26, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      Wow, and how do Muslims act? Really I cannot believe someone would even write such a thing.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • JH

      What does a Muslim act like?

      July 26, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Jessy The Gnostic

      How so?

      I don't see him bowing on a rug. I don't see him praying on Ramadan. I don't see him forcing Michelle into wearing a veil that covers her from head to toe. Do you really think I'm a fool to believe that Obama is actually a Muslim just because you said so? Even if he is, it doesn't matter to me. People like you may think it should matter, but what right do those people have to scare me into believing their point of view? None.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  14. colonelingus

    Just once, I'd love to see a Presidential hopeful have the gonads to come right out and admit he or she is an atheist. Or the very least to take religion out of the equation altogether and say that it is entirely a private matter and no ones business but their own. Hopefully someday the majority of Americans will come to their senses and see religion for what it really is. BS. Stranger things have happened after all. You did vote in a black man for President.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Jessy The Gnostic

      Considering we just elected our first African-American president, it probably won't be long before we vote in someone who is Mormon. I would welcome a Mormon. Why?

      Did you know that back in America's early history, a Mormon candidate for public office was shot by a Christian just because he was Mormon? And that's just for a Mormon that is part of Christianity. Thankfully we seem to have moved beyond that considering that more Christians are backing Mitt Romney (a Mormon).

      If Mitt Romney becomes president, then we will have effectively voted in our first Mormon president along with voting in an African American (Obama) and a Catholic (John Kennedy). This would in turn give us more excuses to vote in maybe a Jew or a Muslim or someone who is Gnostic (Sethians preferred) or whatever.

      I also want to see a middle-class man become president, a poor man become president, a scientist with a PhD become president. Hell, I want to see a crippled person become president. Oh wait, we already did that with Franklin D. Roosevelt (he was wheelchair stricken).

      July 26, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  15. ruth

    For 20 years obama sat in the pew of jerimiah wright and listened over and ove r and over how whites are no good,yelled that America was no good,sounds like a religion of indoctrination to me...remember say it often enough you will believe it,funny how we do not hear about his pastor very much,and where was obama on the day to honor christians,with the muslims ....you tell me what his religion is ,it keeps changing,now he says he is christian.....

    July 26, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Rev Wright is just as "Christian" as many a Southern Baptist bible thumper.

      Just a few weeks ago we had the Carolinian who wanted to round up all the gays and fence them in. Very "Christian" belief system there!

      July 26, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Jessy The Gnostic

      Last time I checked, Obama abandoned that Reverend and his Church back in 2008. He found another church... one that is NOT like that reverend's.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  16. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    I am still trying to figure out why they have the second "M" between the "R" and the second "O" in the more commonly used term for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Oops wrong reply in the post below

      And nor is it in the name of the Angel Moroni.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  17. unblvble

    barack hussen obama 's religion is better than mitt romney mormon.......NO dont Care .....need jobs!!!

    July 26, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      And nor is it in the name of the Angel Moroni.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  18. unblvble

    Need Jobs – dont care about their religion. Did we care about obama muslim relationship? NO. Why NOW?

    July 26, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • fsjunkie

      Romney is the anti-Obama...no matter to what magnitude of an empty suit Romney obviously amounts. If you're irresponsible enough to vote for Palin, of course you'd vote for Romney!!! I remember saying 3 years ago, "I bet if President Obama delivered Bin Laden's head on a silver platter, blind conservatives would still make ridiculous comments and justify their bigotry." Yes, I'm psychic.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Jessy The Gnostic

      @Fsjinkie

      And he secured his second term by turning in said head on a silver platter (metaphorically speaking) and dumping it onto the middle of the ocean so no one can mark his grave. This reminds me of the story of Dante's Divine Comedy (Dante's Inferno) in which the violent and murderous are sent into the River Stixx and left there to drown. A fitting end to a man who used his own faith to kill the innocent.

      July 26, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
  19. Jeremy

    I'll never understand why America is so wrapped up in another's religious beleifs. I yearn for the day where we have a leader strong, rational and intelligent enough to stand on their own without having to talk to themselves (pray) to solve their hardships. Religion does not represent morality. When one lives their life with the "carrot" of heaven, if they live a "good" life or the "stick" of hell if they live "bad" then this is not morality. Morality is when one is good for the sake of being good, not for reward or fear of punishment. Religon needs to be left where it belongs, in our species primative past.

    July 26, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      primitive

      July 26, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • swuesabd

      So are you saying that prayer is unintelligent? And exactly what group of religious beliefs are you attacking? A leader that is strong, rational and intelligent enough knows personally if prayer works or not. A lot of Believers do not like religion either. Great post though!

      July 26, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • Solitairedog

      I think religion is a matter of interest so that we don't end up inviting a Jim Jones to lead the country to it's martyrdom.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • fsjunkie

      Ummm...we already have that leader, and he's being crucified by the religious right. Go figure.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  20. mental dilemma

    To me, the worst part is that the presidents are uneducated morons that profess religious faith. It's like having a leader of a nation that claims the Earth is flat!

    Would you vote for a president that claims that? How can you trust a person like that to make real, rational decisions, especially in time of need? Why do we have to have morons for our leaders. That would be really funny if it wasn't sadly so true!

    July 26, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Perhaps you're best represented by a moron, mental.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I'll give you a break and volunteer. You won't find a bigger moron than I.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Size isn't important.

      July 26, 2012 at 4:11 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.